Authors of books published by Macmillan discovered early Saturday morning that all their electronic books been pulled from Amazon sales, and even wishlists, in a dispute between Amazon and their publisher over e-book pricing.

How the dispute is resolved will help determine the price of e-books in the future.

"Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15," reported the New York Times in its technology blog. "Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books, said this person, who did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter."

Part of the dispute is related to the Apple iPad, using iBooks technology, the Times reported. "Macmillan is one of the publishers signed on to offer books to Apple, as part of its new iBooks store," the blog read. Apple will allow publishers more leeway to set their own prices for e-books, the Times said in an earlier story.

In a published advertisement today, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said he had met with Amazon in Seattle on Thursday, and gave them a proposal for new terms of sale for e-books -- or, as an alternative, greatly reducing the number of titles it would sell with Amazon. "By the time I arrived back in New York late yesterday afternoon [Friday] they informed me that they were taking all our books off the Kindle site, and off Amazon," though books will continue to be available on through third parties, he added.

It's not the first conflict Amazon has had with e-books, nor the first time it has removed books, though it attributed that incident to an error.

"If nothing else, this bit of asshattery on the part of Amazon has well and truly cured me of any desire to ever get a Kindle," posted John Scalzi, one of the affected authors, and one of the first to blog about it. "If Amazon is willing to play chicken with my economic well-being — and the economic well-being of many of my friends — to lock up its little corner of the ebook field, well, that’s its call to make. But, you know what, I remember people who are happy to trample my ass into the dirt as they’re rushing to grab at cash."

Four other major publishers -- Pearson's Penguin, News Corp's HarperCollins, Lagardere's Hachette Book Group and CBS Corp.'s Simon & Schuster -- which signed similar agreements with Apple, are expected to renegotiate their Amazon prices, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. It will be interesting to see how they respond to Amazon's action.

Ironically, the lead book on Macmillan's website is Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). "People used to download music for free, then Steve Jobs convinced them to pay. How? By charging 99 cents," the website describes. "That price has a hypnotic effect: the profit margin of the 99 Cents Only store is twice that of Wal-Mart. Why do text messages cost money, while e-mails are free? The answer is simple: prices are a collective hallucination."

About the Author
Member Avatar slfisher Posting Whiz

People thought it was weird enough that I was both a writer and a computer geek. So then I went and started getting involved in government to pull that in, too. And, y'know, there's a heck of a lot more connections than one might think!

As soon as I saw that Apple was going to charge 14.99 for e-books I was shocked and dissapointed. The new device is incredible, but it's also very expensive for the 3G models. There is no USB to upload books from your PC if you bought them elsewhere, no SD card slot to transfer material what this means is, you become Apple's hostage if you want to read and they will make you pay dearly....It was obvious with that announcement that prices would go up across the board, which is a shame---- what good is technology if we price litteracy out of the market...reading should not become an elitest luxury.

liketoread -- Bluetooth. That's how I get most of my books onto my Palm TX or my G1 phone. Or, since the iPad has WiFi, download directly from Fictionwise, ereader, Baen, Barnes and Noble. Only the Kindle thinks Amazon is the only source of content. Since the iPad can use any iPhone app, and there's already an ereader app, the iBookstore is just a possible store, not the only store.

Apparently Amazon has dropped the paper versions of Macmillan books as well as the electronic versions; I got conflicting information last night.