February 02, 2010, 11:58 AM — Congratulations, Macmillan, you've muscled Amazon into letting you set the prices on e-books, potentially ending the days of $10 Kindle books. Other publishers will surely follow suit, having witnessed Amazon's toothless protest in which it briefly stopped selling Macmillan books before crying uncle and letting the publisher have its way.
Call me crazy, but if Kindle owners will now have to pay $13 to $15 for the same books they were once getting for $10, there ought to be concessions. See, for example, how iTunes dropped digital rights management for music when prices went up. Quid pro quo, Macmillan. What's in it for us? Here's what I propose:
The argument that publishers must delay e-book releases to drum up hard cover sales holds less water as e-book prices increase. Yes, e-book sales cannibalize hard cover sales, because why would you buy a hard cover book when you just spent $260 on an e-reader? Instead of delaying the inevitable rise of e-books, publishers should embrace it and encourage people to buy more.
Lending and Swapping
I'm not privy to why Amazon hasn't copied the lending feature found on Barnes & Noble's Nook, but I hope publishers aren't running interference. The Nook's lending feature, which lets users share a book once for up to 14 days, is better than nothing, even in its crippled state.
No More DRM
It's up to publishers to decide whether e-books can or cannot be transferred to other devices. Unfortunately, they're paranoid about piracy. But ratcheting up prices and offering no benefits in return isn't going to win more purchases. DRM can be hacked anyway, so publishers might as well treat their paying customers with respect. Let them convert and transfer e-book files as they please.
Lower Prices on Old Books
When Apple raised prices to $1.29 for popular iTunes tracks, it also offered collections of classic tunes for 69 cents each. Let's see Macmillan -- and any other publishers that set their own pricing -- promote their back catalog with deals.