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Monday Midday Links: UK Retailers and Publishers Begin Pricing Battle

When Amazon opened its Kindle store earlier this year, a huge price war broke out amongst the major chains forcing ebook prices down to 50% or lower than the retail price. Hachette is the first publisher to push back and institute “agency” pricing. The UK retailers, however, have reacted by removing Hachette from the online catalogs altogether. Waterstones, WH Smith, and Book Depository have delisted the books. The Book DepositoryAmazon UK still has them for sale, but it is unknown for how long. The managing director of Book Depository said that BD has no plans to sign an agreement allowing a publisher to dictate price:

Smith said: “One of the many reasons is we want to apply consistency of offer to the customer. One of the stipulations is we can’t offer coupons or discount vouchers. If we did an e-book offer we would have to have a massive list of exceptions for Hachette titles. We are not being straight with the customer. Unless I can control a customer’s experience, selling e-books with the price set by the publisher is not something I want to do.”

If the retailers hold firm, then it doesn’t seem likely that the publisher will win this pricing war in the UK.

Speaking of Agency Pricing, details about Google Editions, the ebook store of Google, are leaking out. Debbie Stier interviewed Mark Nelson, Strategic Partner Manager for Google. Some tidbits she pulled out were:

* Publishers will set the list price, then retailers will determine the sale price too -‘ so prices could vary depending on which vender you purchase from. Google will receive a percentage of the revenue on purchases.

* Google will place ads on the Book Preview Pages, but NOT within the Google Books Editions.

According to the FAQ of Google Editions, price is set by the publisher but if GE decides to discount it, the publishers’ recourse is to remove the book for sale

Default List Pricing: This setting determines the default list price for consumers purchasing the Google Editions of your books. Unless you specify otherwise, the default price is set at 80% of the lowest list price of the print book (regardless of format) upon which the Google Edition is based. Google will gather and update these print list prices, and before Google Editions becomes available to consumers, you will have the chance to review these prices. In addition to providing a percentage default, you have the option to set a specific price at which you would like all of your titles to be available for purchase. Since Google Editions sales do not incur the same production and shipping costs as do sales of your print books, you may decide to offer all of your Google Editions at one standard price. In addition to a default list price, you also have the option of setting prices for your Google Editions by individual title.


Google Editions List Price: Here you can set the Google Editions list price for your book just as you do for a hard copy book. The default list price for each book will be 80% of the lowest list price of the print book (regardless of format) unless you specify otherwise for your account using Default Settings. Google will gather these print list prices. Before Google Editions become available to consumers, you will have the chance to review these prices. You can also set a specific list price for each title. Please note that Google reserves the right to sell a book at a price discounted from its Google Editions list price, or to not sell a book. If Google decides to offer the book at a discounted price to consumers, your share of the revenue will be based on the Google Editions list price.

This isn’t Agency pricing and if publishers allow Google the right to price and discount, then they really have to allow all retailers to do so.


Harlequin Mills & Boon is running their New Voices contest in which authors, both aspiring and those not contracted with Harlequin, compete for the attention of an editor and possibly a book contract. Lynn Raye Harris, for example, won the the New Voices contest a couple of years ago and now she is publishing her fifth? book for Harlequin Presents.   Regularly, the editorial staff of Mills & Boon post videos and blog posts on how to win the competition.   The videos are fun to watch and the blog posts fun to read even if you don’t plan on writing or entering the competition.   In today’s posting was a list of 10 most cliched openings.   10 was “Fancy meeting you, ex, in the middle of my desert trek-" Coincidental reunions (Yes, SATC2 – we're talking to you-).


Kassia Kroszer posts her ideas on what a new style publishing house will look like.   The focus is heavy on team oriented work, digital advancement, and getting in touch with the consumer.

Our thoroughly modern editor will sometimes go by the the name project developer. Rightly so. Even today, books are projects. Acquisition, editing, artwork, production, marketing-all of these are part of the final product that is known as a book. This project must be shepherded through the entire process, guided by a strong vision. Fragmentation of vision is a guarantee of failure.

Kassia attracts a host of interesting readers and thus the comment section is not to be missed.


CBC News has an interview with the CEO of Kobo Books, Michael Serbinis, who says that the market for ebooks is growing faster than anyone imagined.

E-book sales are ramping up, but where do you see them going?

When we started this as a pilot project at Indigo, we talked about numbers like two to three per cent [market share of all books] in five years. I think everyone is astonished at where we’re at today, let alone five years from now. At the end of the first quarter this year, some of the top-tier publishers talked about being around nine per cent, so what does that mean at the end of the fourth quarter? Fifteen, 13, 12, who knows? It’s happening faster than anyone expected.

Speaking of Kobobooks, it has a new desktop application out and to celebrate there is a $2.00 off coupon. Simply type “twodollars” in the checkout section. It’s great to use for the Harlequin books because those are under $3.00 in the first place. H/t Brian.


According to one study, falling in love comes at a price and that price is one’s relationship with two close friends. (Maybe this is why the heroine is always alone but it doesn’t explain the hero’s ongoing buddy relationship with the sixteen members of his secret club).

Falling in love comes at the cost of losing close friends, because romantic partners absorb time that would otherwise be invested in platonic relationships, researchers say.

A new partner pushes out two close friends on average, leaving lovers with a smaller inner circle of people they can turn to in times of crisis, a study found.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. library addict
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 12:23:52

    So basically round 2 of the Agency battle and the ever ongoing format wars.

    When will publishers learn we will buy more books if we can get them on sale? I miss the heyday of Fictionwise and discounts plus micropay. I spent way more money on ebooks there than was safe for my wallet.

    As it is, even though I plan to get one of the Sony readers soon, I’ve gone back to buying more print books.

  2. Kim in Hawaii
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 13:01:07

    As always, interesting news for a Monday morning. Regarding Harlequin’s New Voice contest, I give a shout out to Lynn Raye Harris who is also an Air Force spouse. She left Hawaii before I moved here, but we did meet at RWA this summer.

    From the link you provided, I read Lynn’s bio, “she married a military man and moved around the world. She's been inside the Kremlin, hiked up a Korean mountain, floated on a gondola in Venice and stood inside volcanoes at opposite ends of the world.”

    Perhaps her experiences sparked her imagination and voice!

  3. Jody
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 13:18:31

    I’m still surprised that anti-trust legislation isn’t applicable to somebody, somehow, in the publishing pricing wars–in the US, at least.

  4. brooksse
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 13:58:58

    fyi… speaking of Mills & Boon, they have a new set of free ebooks available at

    Available in epub and mobi, DRM-free.

  5. ShellBell
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 14:16:41

    Not being able to buy from WH Smith and Waterstones just means more long waits for books from my local library. My purchasing ability is now reduced to Samhain and Harlequin etc. WH Smith and Waterstones were the only places I could purchase the ocassional agency authors eBook from. Still, I do have nearly 200 books on my TBR pile that I should start working my way through while waiting for the library books. Just a shame I can’t support some of my favourite authors anymore!

  6. Ridley
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 15:04:09


    Thank you!

  7. Estara
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 15:17:39

    @brooksse: Thanks for the tip off, brooksse

  8. Sunita
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 15:37:08

    @brooksse: Awesome, thanks! Great selections, too.

    I just went over to the site and they have added 2 new books in Spanish and one in French.

  9. brooksse
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 16:58:51

    @brooksse: Also, something else over on the Everyone’s Reading – a drawing for a new Sony Touch Edition/PRS-650. Here is the link to enter the drawing:

    Also, here’s a post on mobileread about some cheap St. Martin’s Press ebooks, including Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie:

  10. illukar
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 17:53:10

    “Unless you specify otherwise, the default price is set at 80% of the lowest list price of the print book (regardless of format) upon which the Google Edition is based.”

    By far the most sensible ebook pricing guide around.

  11. lucy
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 18:05:20

    @brooksse: Thanks!
    @Sunita: Bianca and Deseo brings back memories. When I lived in Dominican Republic I could only find category romance. Which made me promise never to read category romance again when I got back to civilization. But I’ve since found out that I like category romance. Too bad the spanish downloads don’t work.

    So are ebooks in the uk cheaper? Or is it that they don’t sell agency five ebooks? Or are they only objecting to Hachette. The boycotting in book depository might explain why I can’t find some books.

  12. Sunita
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 18:52:26

    @lucy: Ah crap. I sent Harlequin a tweet about it; they’re usually pretty good about responding. The French one doesn’t work either right now.

  13. brooksse
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 21:12:40

    Some more deals (mostly Kindle – I’ve been having fun grabbing free & nearly free ebooks at Amazon while waiting for my new Kindle to arrive :D) These prices were still good this evening….

    Strike Zone by Kate Angell – $0.00
    White Tigress by Jade Lee – $0.00
    Marked by Elisabeth Naughton – $0.00
    Guns Will Keep Us Together by Leslie Langtry – $0.00
    Penelope & Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley – $0.00
    Chill by Stephanie Rowe – $1.81
    Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie – $2.99
    Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie – $1.61
    Make Your Move by Samantha Hunter – $2.63 (friends to lovers)
    A Conflict of Interest by Anna Adams – $1.24

    And this one from B&N:
    Scandal Sheet by Gemma Halliday – $0.00

  14. MaryK
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 22:50:28

    I subscribe to the rss feed for . She does a good job of keeping up with Kindle’s free and cheap books.

  15. brooksse
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 12:54:15

    @MaryK: Yes, she does a real good job! I check Mobileread’s “Deals, Freebies, and Resources” forum, and she posts there as well, along with a few others.

  16. FD
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 14:34:01

    Agency pricing has not been agreed in the UK. Hatchette is pushing for it, but so far not getting anywhere, hence the boycott. Otherwise, you can buy any of the Agency-house published books in the UK, (assuming UK rights have been sold or they can be ordered from Amazon) and the price will be set by the seller, not the publisher.
    As you’d expect, that means there’s a something of a price war going on right now. Personally, I think that with the history of the Restrictive Practises Court ruling the Net Book Agreement illegal, agency pricing is likely to be really difficult for them to institute over here.

    However that doesn’t mean ebooks are necessarily cheaper in the UK, as there’s VAT payable on ebooks, (but not paper books) due to them being deemed ‘luxuries.’ Hopefully our government will move into the current century on this at some point, although given the astounding lack of understanding displayed in the House during the debates on the Digital Economy Act, I’m not optimistic.

  17. Stumbling Over Chaos :: A flood of linkity!
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 02:02:46

    […] Ebook price wars are beginning in the UK. […]

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