Amazon's plans to kill book publishers thwarted by Apple

The New Yorker's Ken Auletta has a feature about the current power struggle between Apple, Amazon, and Google for the ebook market.

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“By the end of last year, Amazon accounted for an estimated eighty per cent of all electronic book sales, and $9.99 seemed established as the price of an e-book. Publishers were panicked,” Auletta writes.

After a confrontation with Amazon, five of the “big six” publishers have agreed to sell their e-books through Apple’s iBooks store, where they will be allowed to set prices, to a certain extent. One Apple insider told Auletta, “Ultimately, Apple is in the device–not the content–business. Steve Jobs wants to make sure content people are his partner. Steve is in the I win/you win school. Jeff Bezos is in the I win/you lose school.” Auletta’s sources suggest that Amazon was making a bid to ramp up its publishing game. “What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors,” a close associate of Jeff Bezos told Auletta. “For the time being,” Auletta writes, “Apple’s interest in the book market has given publishers a reprieve. A close associate of Bezos said, ‘Amazon was thinking of direct publishing–until the Apple thing happened.’ ”

Publishers are also encouraged to know that Google will be opening Google Editions, an online e-books store, this summer. Dan Clancy, who will direct Google Editions, told Auletta that their store’s e-books will be accessible to users of any device, and that Google Editions will let publishers set prices. “Having already digitized twelve million books,” Auletta writes, “Google will have a far greater selection of books than Amazon or Apple. It will also make e-books available for bookstores to sell, giving ‘the vast majority’ of revenues to the store, Clancy said.”

Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business? (Illo by Paul Rogers)