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Thursday, February 18, 2010, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Some Apple iPad e-book bestsellers could still be $10 or less

While the announcement of the iPad convinced numerous publishers to strong-arm Amazon into allowing them to sell e-books for the Kindle for more than $9.99, a new report says not every new bestseller on the iPad will carry a premium price.

According to The New York Times, while the recent dispute between Amazon and publishers has made headlines, it may not tell the whole story. Sources told the newspaper that ongoing negotiations with Apple have allowed for higher prices, but only as an option.

What Apple has allegedly offered that Amazon previously did not was a degree of flexibility for publishers to price their newest titles. While most iPad new bestsellers would sell between $12.99 and $14.99, those prices would reportedly represent a price ceiling, sources said.

"Apple inserted provisions requiring publishers to discount e-book prices on best sellers — so that $12.99-to-$14.99 range was merely a ceiling; prices for some titles could be lower, even as low as Amazon’s $9.99," the report said.

"Essentially, Apple wants the flexibility to offer lower prices for the hottest books, those on one of the New York Times best-seller lists, which are heavily discounted in bookstores and on rival retail sites. So, for example, a book that started at $14.99 would drop to $12.99 or less once it hit the best-seller lists."

It also noted that hardcover editions priced below the usual $26 in print could be priced "much lower" than $12.99, even if they were not a bestseller.

It is Apple's entrance into the e-book market, with its new iBooks application and accompanying iBookstore, that has caused a new rift between publishers and Amazon. Following Macmillan's lead, Hachette Book Group and HarperCollins have both announced their intent to ink new deals with more flexible price structuring with Amazon.

Based on their content deals with Apple, publishers could offer new hardcover bestsellers for between $12.99 and $14.99 on the iPad's iBookstore.

Publishers have been successful in forcing a reluctant Amazon into agreeing to higher prices for new hardcover bestsellers. While books are currently priced at $9.99 on the Kindle, most are expected to rise to between $12.99 and $14.99 by the time the iPad launches in March.