Agency pricing questioned by Waterstone's

Agency pricing questioned by Waterstone's

<p>Waterstone&#39;s has publicly queried the agency model, saying its adoption in the UK has &quot;not been great for anyone&quot; and pricing has not always been fair on consumers.</p><p>E-books buyer Alex Ingram was speaking at FutureBook 2010, <em>The Bookseller</em>&#39;s digital conference. Author Nick Harkaway, who shared a panel with Ingram, said publishers setting their own digital prices was the best way of &quot;restraining the control that Amazon has over the e-book market&quot;.</p><p>In his presentation, Ingram said waterstones.com had been hit after some publishers decided to implement the agency model in the UK. He said: &quot;We lost the ability to sell a huge proportion of our catalogue for many weeks, and our customers suffered.&quot;</p><p>Hachette e-books were removed from sale at waterstones.com when the publisher switched to the agency model in September until late last month. The retailer has also accepted agency terms from HarperCollins, Simon &amp; Schuster and Penguin, meaning it is no longer able to offer Waterstone&#39;s Card points with e-book sales.</p><p>Ingram said: &quot;No one can judge the success or failure of the agency model just yet, but in the short term it has not been great for anyone. . . What matters most is getting a fair price onto the market, and I don&#39;t think that every agency price is fair.&quot;</p><p>Kieron Smith, managing director of The Book Depository, which has declined to accept agency terms, said: &quot;We do a lot of &#39;couponing&#39; and the agency model makes it very difficult to do any general discounting. We have a strong customer position that we do not want to change.&quot;</p><p>But Harkaway said the agency model was necessary. &quot;Is it ideal? No. Has its implementation been ideal? No. And it&#39;s not about Amazon being evil, or Apple, but what&#39;s vital about [the agency model] is that it allows publishers to retain control over their routes to market, and the alternative is letting other people control that. But publishers have to be sensible, and it should not be used as an excuse to try to reinstate the Net Book Agreement.&quot; </p><p>Ingram exhorted publishers to improve the quality of digital files warning that dealing with errors in e-book files could wipe out the chain&#39;s profit margin on individual titles.</p>