E-book price war "absurd"

E-book price war "absurd"

<p>The e-book pricing war sparked by the launch of Amazon&rsquo;s UK Kindle e-book store, which has seen the retailer price some bestselling books at less than &pound;3, has been branded &quot;absolutely absurd&quot; by a top publisher.</p><p>Concerns have been raised that the UK market could be set for a battle over the headline price of e-books similar to that waged in the US over the past year. However, other publishers claimed the low prices would not affect the future pricing model of e-books.</p><p>Amazon.co.uk launched its Kindle e-book store two weeks ago, promising to offer the lowest prices on the market. In response, W H Smith dropped the price of its top 100 fiction e-books to a third of their original level, and then said that it would sell all e-books at a 50% discount.</p><p>Amazon has consistently priced some of the bestselling titles in the market at less than &pound;3, leading to publishers and rival retailers accusing it of selling the titles as loss leaders. Stieg Larsson&rsquo;s Millennium trilogy is among those available at less than &pound;3. Iain Miller, marketing and digital publishing manager at Larsson&rsquo;s publisher Quercus, declined to comment on Amazon&rsquo;s pricing tactics.</p><p>However, another senior publisher attacked the pricing strategies of W H Smith and Amazon. He said: &quot;It&rsquo;s absolutely absurd to devalue our product but I&rsquo;m not surprised because our industry is populated by nincompoops.&quot;</p><p>He said Amazon&rsquo;s move could make the agency model less attractive to publishers. He said: &quot;In this instance, on the wholesale model, publishers are fine because it is retailers taking the pain. If we say a book is &pound;10 and you get 40% discount, we get &pound;6. If the retailer chooses to sell it for &pound;2, we&rsquo;re still all right.&quot;</p><p>A review of e-book prices undertaken by The Bookseller shows that Amazon and WHS are offering the lowest prices. Kindle and WHS e-books are also significantly cheaper than their counterparts on Apple&rsquo;s iBookstore, where prices are set by the publisher.</p><p>Before the Sony Reader launch in 2008, publishers argued that the value of e-books needed to be at parity with the print edition. Some publishers contacted this week claimed Amazon&rsquo;s move would not lead to expectations of low e-books prices. One said: &quot;It&rsquo;s a minuscule market and early doors for e-books in the UK. There&rsquo;s no way the stable door has closed in terms of the size of the business in 10 years&rsquo; time.&quot;</p>