Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books From Kindle – Now They're Back

by Greg on February 1, 2010

On Friday, Amazon announced they were pulling all of Macmillan’s books from their Kindle Store. This is because of a dispute about the pricing of e-books. Amazon wants to sell the books for $9.99 but Macmillan, as the publisher, would like the books to sell for a higher price – up to $15. The negotiations had been going on for some time but at the start of the weekend, Amazon decided to take the books off of their site.

John Sargent, the CEO of Macmillan, ran an ad in the Publisher’s Marketplace email stating Macmillan’s position on the situation. Here’s part of what he had to say:

Thursday I met with Amazon in Seattle. I gave them our proposal for new terms of sale for ebooks under the agency model which will become effective in early March. In addition, I told them they could stay with their old terms of sale, but that this would involve extensive and deep windowing of titles. By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon. The books will continue to be available on Amazon.com through third parties.

Well, things have changed pretty quickly. As of yesterday, Amazon “capitulated” and said they will start selling Macmillan’s books on their website again – but at higher prices. Here’s what Amazon had to say regarding the matter:

Dear Customers:

Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.

Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!

Thank you for being a customer.

This quote was on the Amazon bulletin board and was posted by “The Amazon Kindle team”. According to this statement, we will now have to pay $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of best sellers from Macmillan instead of the $9.99 that we’re used to paying. I’m curious to see what you think about the statement “Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book.” Do you think it’s reasonable? Will you pay $14.99 when you were previously paying $9.99?

Amazon also says that they don’t think that “all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan” and I hope they’re right. But when it comes to money, anything can happen. Once other publishers see what happened with Macmillan, what’s to stop them from trying to get the same deal? Are we going to have to start paying $14.99 for all Kindle best sellers now?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 B.E. Moyer February 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

As a disabled veteran on a fixed budget who read a great deal I purchased my Kindle because it would allow me to read more for the amount I have budgeted for books. I’m not paying more no matter what Macmillan does or fails to do. I will not patronize Macmillan for anything they sell until they agree to the $9.99 Amazon price ceiling. Can I really do that? Well, I haven’t watched a Jane Fonda movie or an appearance by her on television since 1969. Macmillan can probably get along without me. I know I can get along without Macmillan.

2 D. Payne February 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I know that there are certain restrictions for sharing books with friends and family members that also have Kindles. Amazon could relax these restrictions on Macmillan’s books and any other publisher that increase their prices for e-books. It would be no different than lending a friend or family member your copy of a book once you have finished it. This may significantly cut into the sales of the offending publishers without limiting the customers choices.

3 Cheryl February 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Okay — publishing is getting hammered – part of it’s their own fault for not seeing the handwriting on the wall (or on the screen, for that matter) as well as having some of the least efficient business/management/process practices on the planet. BUT, part of it is that it’s a very competitive, practically commoditized, labor intensive, production oriented business (e.g., high overhead…). Also, you’re either a Book Buyer or a Book Borrower. $14.99 is still cheaper than $24.99 (or higher in some cases) for the hardcover. SO – as long as $14.99 is the ebook at hardcover release price – and that price is what I pay BEFORE the paperback version comes out AND I really want to read the book. Then as a Book Buyer I’ll buy the book. After all, there are already many books on Amazons site that are more than $9.99.

4 Richard February 2, 2010 at 8:57 am

I was willing to pay up to $9.99 for the convenience of an ebook even though the publishers made out like bandits given the significantly lower overhead the electronic medium provides. Unfortunately for Macmillan and Amazon, I will not enrich them further by paying above that price point. Both companies will lose my business, and I will actually gain, by going back to the public library and read for free!

5 Carol Donaho February 1, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Well said, Mr. Webb.

I have absolutely no intention of paying Macmillan’s prices.

My hope is that millions of customers feel the same way and Macmillan discovers that, even in America, corporate greed is no longer being accepted.

6 Chuck Webb February 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Below is a copy of the email I sent to Macmillan customer service (customerservice@mpsvirginia.com):

Sorry to hear that Macmillan has succumbed to the corporate greed that is infecting our society and sending us down the same path as Rome. Suffice to say I won’t be buying your products unless this issue is resolved in favor of the consumer. Otherwise, for all of me, you can find a sufficiently high window on Wall St. from which to jump.

Not truly yours,

Charles W. Webb III
Kindle owner, veteran, and proud of it!

7 Frances February 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I will probably not pay more.

8 Kim February 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

I, for one, probably will not pay that much. I rarely pay $9.99 for an ebook, prefering to download the free or “paperback” priced books. I don’t like the feeling that Amazon is saying they don’t have any control in this. Sure they do. They are the biggest bookseller on the internet and can certainly sell or not sell what they want.

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