According to at least one source, pricing of e-books sold through Apple’s iBookstore will not be as expensive as we were initially led to believe. Many sources put the original price of bestsellers between $12 and $14, as compared to the $9.99 sweet spot offered by Amazon, which was then jeopardized as publishers rushed to work out new arrangements following the iPad announcement.
A new report by AppAdvice.com’s Alexander Vaughn suggests that reports of higher pricing may have been greatly exaggerated. Vaughn was lucky enough to be privy to a “not-so-NDA-complying preview” of the iBookstore in action, and he notes that a significant portion of the New York Times’ bestseller list are actually offered at $9.99.
The pricing is actually in keeping with comments made by Steve Jobs at the iPad’s unveiling, despite all the subsequent reports that pricing would likely favor the Amazon platform, at least until publishers raised prices there, too. Jobs said iPad e-books would be similarly priced to ones available on Amazon’s Kindle platform, in an interview with Walt Mossberg that was caught on camera by All Things D’s Kara Swisher.
Vaughn’s information seems reliable, especially since he includes a photo seemingly taken with his iPhone’s camera of the iBookstore running on pre-release iPad hardware. The screenshot clearly shows a number of titles with $9.99 price tags attached. Vaughn states further that of the 32 books in the New York Times’ bestseller list, 27 are priced at $9.99, including the top 10. A few books on the list did appear to be selling at the higher $12.99 price point.
There’s always the chance that this could just be Apple using dummy prices in an early iBookstore mock-up, and that real pricing will be more in line with what we’ve been hearing, but if so, it seems odd that it would even bother peppering in some more expensive books. I’d say it’s more likely that these are the types of prices we’ll see on launch day, which is very bad news indeed for Amazon, but great news for the ebook-buying public.
It could be good news for Amazon, too, though, depending on how iBooks sell. If publishers that refuse to go down to the $9.99 price point are spurned by customers, they’ll probably eventually be forced to step in line with the others in order to compete. Lower prices across the board are a good thing for Amazon, because strengthens that company’s position when it comes to negotiating with publishers. On the other hand, if the iPad becomes overwhelmingly popular, Amazon runs the risk of becoming completely irrelevant in the e-book market it helped to pioneer.