For the moment, Jobs is the publishers’ best ally. “Steve is very proud that Macmillan put a gun to Amazon’s head,” the insider said. But in the long term Apple and Google will not necessarily be better partners than Amazon. One day, they, too, will complain about the cumbersome publishing process, or excessive prices. Just days before the iPad went on sale, on April 3rd, there were rumors that Apple might list best-sellers for as little as $9.99. Apple agreed to the agency model for just one year, and, as publishers are acutely aware, Jobs has a history, with music and television companies, of fighting to reduce prices. One publisher said, “Maybe Apple will want to come back in a year and bite our heads off.” The iPad may even make it possible for Amazon to reach new consumers. Apple now offers about sixty thousand e-books, far fewer than Kindle does, and Amazon has launched an app that allows it to sell e-books on the iPad. No matter where consumers buy books, their belief that electronic media should cost less—that something you can’t hold simply isn’t worth as much money—will exert a powerful force. Asked about publishers’ efforts to raise prices, a skeptical literary agent said, “You can try to put on wings and defy gravity, but eventually you will be pulled down.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Ken Aulette writing in the New Yorker on the iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books: