The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect


Is Simon and Schuster cheating on agency ebook pricing?

If it wasn't bad enough that the big publishers got together with Apple last year to jack up the price of ebooks with "agency pricing," now it appears that they can't even play fair with the rules they set.

Recall that under so-called agency pricing, publishers directly set the retail price of an ebook. Retailers cannot change or discount the price and simply get to keep a 30% share. One core tenet of "agency pricing" is that the ebook retail price must be the same at every retailer -- that was the whole point, to shut down Amazon's low prices.

Now examples are cropping up of ebooks being offered for free on Apple's iBookstore that are still full price on all other platforms. Here for example, is the David McCullough ebook The Great Bridge in the Apple iBookstore just now:

Note that the ebook is free and the seller is listed as "Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc." Now here's the exact same ebook in the Amazon Kindle store just now:

Here the ebook is $14.99 and sold by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc with the note "this price was set by the publisher." The ebook is also $14.99 in Barnes & Noble's Nookstore and at the Kobo ebookstore. And it's not an isolated example. Folks in the Kindle discussion forums are complaining about other books, like Jennifer Weiner's In Her Shoes.

With the just-filed price fixing class action lawsuit now looming, seems like an odd time for such price discrimination.

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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