Macmillan and The Case of Tiered Pricing and Availability

Today Macmillan started to announce some details about their new agency model, book available and pricing. While pricing isn’t something I’ve really gotten into voicing my views on yet (don’t worry, I will) availability is and as much as I disagree with other things they’ve done I’m really digging their views on this, at least so far.

First, as CEO John Sargent says, “All the new adult trade books for which we have the rights to publish in e-book format will be available at the first release of the printed book.” Meaning, Macmillan books won’t end up on my boycott list.

How will they do this you ask? The same way publishers have been doing for ages now, with tiered pricing, meaning the initial release will be priced higher. Think of it as a hard cover for ebooks. If the book you want is released as a hardcover first and you want to read it the day it comes out, expect to pay more than you would if it was a paperback. They say that prices will be lower than the paperbacks, “between $14.99 and $12.99; a few books will be priced higher and lower” and as a paperback version is released or time goes by (for those that do not come out in paperback) prices will be lowered.

Is this going to solve everything? No, odds are their prices are still going to be higher than many are comfortable with paying. It’s a step in the right direction, though. I like that at least one publisher is recognizing that ebooks aren’t just another medium like paperbacks vs. hardbacks, it’s another market entirely. Pricing higher at release and lower over time is the way to go in my mind. If I want a book the day it comes out and it’s something being released in a hard cover edition, I’m already conditioned to pay more–I’m fine with this. As long as it’s cheaper than the actual hardcover (showing both the savings from the print costs and the loss of value in terms of resale, sharing, etc, to me as a reader) I’ll be happy. Will they actually hold firm to prices the market is willing to pay? That’s the real question.

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