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Apple iPad deal pushes another publisher to renegotiate with Amazon


Days after Macmillan essentially forced Amazon to accept higher prices for its Kindle e-book titles, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., said his publishing company HarperCollins is also in talks to increase titles beyond $9.99.

During his company's earnings call this week, Murdoch revealed that he doesn't like the $9.99 pricing currently employed by Amazon because it devalues books and hurts retailers who sell the hardcover editions. But he noted Apple's content deals for its new iPad allow publishers more flexibility to set prices at a level they believe is fair.

"Apple — in its agreement with us, which has not been disclosed in detail — does allow for a variety of slightly higher prices," Murdoch said. "There will be prices very much less than the printed copies of books, but still will not be fixed in a way that Amazon has been doing it."

Now, Murdoch said, Amazon is "ready to sit down" with HarperCollins to renegotiate pricing of books on the Kindle.

The revelation comes after a short-lived standoff over e-book prices between Amazon and Macmillan, during which Amazon temporarily suspended sales of all books from the publisher. A day later, though, Amazon reluctantly conceded and allowed the publisher to raise its prices to between $12.99 and $14.99.

The events were foreshadowed last week by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who told Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal that publishers were going to begin withholding their titles from the Kindle because they were not happy with the pricing structure. Jobs also said the iPad and Kindle would offer "the same" prices on e-books.

Prior to last week's announcement, it was rumored that publishers were in talks with Apple to offer new hardcover bestsellers at prices of $12.99 and $14.99. The terms of the e-book deals Apple has struck with publishers remain unknown.

When Apple introduced the iPad last week, it also unveiled the new iBooks application for reading e-books. The software also includes the iBookstore, which allows users to purchase content that will be displayed on their virtual bookshelf. Apple announced deals with five major book partners, including Macmillan and HarperCollins.