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Apple ebook prices revealed! Will $9.99 rule?

March 26, 2010 |  9:06 am

Ibookstore_demoThe website AppAdvice.com has gotten a peek at the ibookstore Apple will launch with its iPad: Kathryn Stockett's bestselling "The Help" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith are both listed at $9.99.

Of "the 32 eBooks featured in the New York Times’ Bestsellers section, 27, including the entire top 10 are priced at $9.99," writes AppAdvice's Alexander Vaughn. The highest price he saw in the demo was $12.99.

Does this mean that the ebook pricing war has been settled? Will $9.99 be the rule? When the iPad was announced in January, Jobs said that the prices would "be the same" as Amazon's. And those seen in the ibookstore screenshot are -- each one matches Amazon's Kindle price.

But of course, there's more to it than that.

In the photos captured by AppAdvice, we see the top four books in fiction and nonfiction. Except the ranking numbers are a bit hinky for bestsellers -- in fiction, we see numbers 2, 3, 5 and 6 (the top seller, and No. 4, are missing). Nonfiction is even weirder, displaying numbers 1, 11, 12 and 15.

Why would Apple leave out ranked books in what AppAdvice describes as a "not-so-NDA-complying preview"? What they have included are books from just two of the big six publishers: Penguin and Hachette. Both have already signed on to sell books through Apple's ibookstore.

For the demo, it appears Apple used the New York Times bestseller list to rank its books. Looking at the fiction list, the absent books are easy to spot. The N.Y. Times No. 1 fiction bestseller -- which is missing from the Apple screenshot -- is Jodi Picoult's "House Rules." That novel is not yet available as an ebook -- and the the hardcover costs considerably more -- it retails for $28. The missing No. 4 bestseller is "Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Backlash" from LucasBooks -- a division of Random House. Of the big six publishers, Random House is understood to be the last to have not yet entered into an agreement with Apple.

Rather than showing us the future, AppAdvice is showing us a snapshot of the present moment -- a moment in which publishers, Apple and Amazon are in the midst of negotiations. Those negotiations are likely to continue right up until the iPad release on April 3, if not beyond.

These prices represent nothing more than what might happen if the ibookstore opened today. Chances are the future will be slightly different.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Apple iBookstore demo. Credit: Apple

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