Yesterday evening, electronic books from publisher Macmillan disappeared from Amazon.com. According to the New York Times technology blog Bits, Amazon is expressing a strong disagreement to Macmillan's request to raise the price of e-books from $9.99 for a Kindle purchase to $15. Other publishers have made the same request, but it is was not immediately clear why Amazon chose Macmillan to be made an example of. The publisher is also one of a few (including Farrar, Straus & Giroux, St. Martins Press and Henry Holt) that will be involved in the new Apple iBooks store, freshly launched in tandem with the release of its new tablet.
An update to the Bits post clarifies the probable reason for yesterday's removal of Macmillan titles. A source reports that Macmillan offered "Amazon the opportunity to buy Kindle editions on the same 'agency' model as it will sell e-books to Apple for the iPad." In this model, the price is determined by the publisher, who receives 70 percent of the sale, and thirty percent goes to the retailer - being either Apple or Amazon.
In the latter's case, Amazon could continue to buy e-books under the current wholesale model, where the publisher receives fifty percent of the hardcover sale, and Amazon would dictate the price. Macmillan would delay the release of these Kindle editions for seven months after the hardcover release. This is what supposedly provoked Amazon.
Amazon's refusal to raise the price of e-books is transparent - it is interested in selling more Kindles, and that extra $5.01 per title is going to make it that much more difficult. The device also comes bloated with DRM, an issue that BoingBoing parses a "kind of roach-motel for books."
The comparison falls somewhat flat with no clear schematic of DRM for iBook store purchases - if analogous to the iTunes store, then its definitely not an improvement from the Kindle platform. But if company skirmishes come to limit readers' choices as it did last night, this tech is not progress.