Random House UK could follow their US counterpart in adopting agency pricing for ebooks according to internet rumours which also suggest an announcement confirming the move could come as early as this week.
Last week the US division of Random House announced it would be moving to model which sees publishers set the final retail price of ebooks with retailers paid a set commission per sale.
The move came just days before an announcement that the publisher’s titles would be available via Apple’s iBookstore which only stocks titles made available under agency terms.
Many publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin, already sell books under agency terms. The model prevents retailers from discounting titles and means prices for a given title are usually the same across all outlets.
Industry watchers had expected Random House UK to wait until the Office of Fair Trading had completed an investigation into the model before potentially adopting it.
However unsubstantiated online rumours claim the publisher is currently briefing staff on a potential switch to agency terms and that an official announcement could follow soon after, possibly this week or next.
Agency pricing has been unpopular with some ebooks customers, notably those who were drawn to format on the promise of low-cost books only to see some prices increase once retailers lost the ability to discount.
The model has been seen by many industry observers as a defensive move, designed to protect the value of titles in a new and still developing market.
In October 2010 Amazon’s UK Kindle team published a blog post in which they claimed moving to the agency model would “raise prices on e-books for consumers almost across the board”.
Despite its stated opposition to the model, the online retailer still stocks titles made available under agency terms, flagging them with the disclaimer “This price was set by the publisher”.
A spokesperson for Random House UK said the company did not comment on speculative rumours and referred us to its March 1st statement, issued in the wake of the US division’s announcement:
“New commercial models in the fast changing eBook environment are constantly under review.
“Across our territories – not least in the UK – we continue to evaluate our options and talk to all etailers as it is our mission to ensure that our authors’ books are available on all platforms to all potential customers.
“Our strategy is constantly evolving in the best interests both of our authors and consumers.”