E-reader escapades

Friday, August 12, 2011

Amazon is in the news this week for two significant developments. First, two weeks ago, Amazon complied with Apple’s mandate to remove the direct purchasing option from the Kindle app for iOS. Apple, as you probably know, insists on collecting 30% from all purchases from its apps. But Amazon had a back-up plan in the works. They have released the Kindle Cloud Reader, a web-based app that can be freely accessed from iPad, Safari, or Chrome browsers. The app allows purchasing, syncing, and reading offline. It is not yet available for iPhone. 

The second development is a class-action antitrust lawsuit alleging that five major publishing houses (Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin Group Inc., and Simon & Schuster Inc.), along with Apple, conspired to force Amazon to stop discounting e-books. Amazon launched e-book sales on the Kindle with books priced at a low $9.99. The lawsuit alleges that publishers colluded to adopt an “agency model” for pricing with Apple, so that Apple adopted the higher prices they set and took a cut of the revenues. Further, the publishers agreed with Apple not to sell the books to other companies at a lower price, so Apple’s higher prices had no competition. Amazon was forced to capitulate and accept the agency model as well, so that now bestsellers often cost $12-$15. Now the legal battle is to prove that there was a conspiracy.

Does this digital jousting leave you pining for paperbacks? Brian Viner, a columnist based in Herefordshire, England, writes about how e-readers have thwarted customary poolside paperback book snobbery: “For me, the book soiled by a combination of heat, suntan lotion and water, fit only for the bin by the eve of the homeward journey, is one of the tactile pleasures of a summer holiday.”

Enjoy your weekend reading but keep the Kindle dry.