This week’s news of an OFT investigation into the agency pricing model being used by ebook publishers went down especially well with Kindle users posting on Amazon’s forums, many of whom are clearly not paying attention to the OFT’s caveat that “it should not be assumed that the parties involved have breached competition law.”
Ever since the promise of ultra-low ebook prices was derailed by the agency model’s introduction, there have been calls for the system to be disallowed so the market could return to retailers once again selling books at whatever price they wanted – even below cost should they so desire.
Large numbers of ‘bar room lawyers’ have been quick to offer premature judgements that the publishers concerned are acting illegally in an attempt (the rationale for which is always ill-defined) to hinder the growth of the ebook sector.
It’s clear many Kindle users – who seem to be the group most unhappy at the agency model’s introduction, probably because the biggest impact on prices appears to have been at Amazon – aren’t willing to pay the prices asked for by agency publishers.
Which brings us to a question few seem to be asking: What happens next if the OFT rules that the model is fine?
I’ve already said – and been roundly bashed for doing so – Amazon needs to do more than appeal merely on the basis of being a source of cheap books. If the OFT rules in favour of agency how do they translate that need into reality?
What’s the roadmap for taking the single-purpose Kindle forward in a world of far more exciting, multi-purpose devices? Some grey-scale games and subscriptions to blogs freely accessible on tablets and smartphones aren’t going to be enough.
And what about those Kindle users who bought their devices in the expectation that they’d be able to fill it with the latest bestsellers at bargain basement prices? Will they gradually come to terms with the new, more expensive reality or are their Kindles destined to become dust magnets on top of the wardrobe?
My hunch is we’re about to find out…
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