As the book industry prepares forthe twin debut of Apple's iPad and the switch by five of the biggest trade bookpublishers to the agency pricing model, retailers, distributors and consumerscan expect dramatic changes in the e-book marketplace. In a blog post, Michael Tamblyn, v-p ofcontent, sales and merchandising at e-book retailer Kobo, warns consumers to be prepared forhigher prices, the loss of consumer reward programs and unpredictableavailability for some titles.
Indeed, Tamblyn and others havenoted that the April 1 transition to the agency model—agent/sellers like Kobowill now take a 30% commission off the e-book retail price set bypublishers—has been instituted so rapidly that there may be problems. Somedigital wholesalers like Ingram and OverDrive as well as publishers and someretailers have complained that they have not had enough time to rewriteagreements or revamp complex digital delivery systems in time.
"Publishers may not be able toclose all deals by the beginning of April," Tamblyn wrote on the Koboblog. "Retailers may find themselves presented with terms they can't agreeto. There are a lot of system changes that have to be made on just a fewdays/weeks notice."
While consumers will seefewer $9.99 e-books—"In the US, a lot of $9.99's are going to become $12.99'sand some will be more. Not much we can do about it—we aren't allowed todiscount them," he says—some titles will stay the same price or go down because not allpublishers are switching to the agency model. Among publishers who are not switching to the agency model, at least for now, areRandom House, McGraw Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Harlequin and many smallerpublishers.
So on the eve of this big changein how e-books will be sold, Kobo, known for its loyalty and consumer discountprograms, is offering a big last minute e-book sale for consumers. The e-bookretailer is offering $2 off every e-book title it offers until midnight March31. "We're going to party like it's $9.99," Tamblyn jokes.