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Sci-fi and fantasy authors wade into Amazon spat

Blasters and enchanted swords at the ready

The writers' group Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has cut links to Amazon after the retailer removed, and then reinstated, titles from Macmillan publishing.

The spat is all about ebook pricing - Amazon claims that $9.99 is all punters will pay for the ethereal presence of an electronic book, but Macmillan reckons they'll stump up $15 for the latest title and refused to sell its books for less.

Macmillan called Amazon's bluff after they threatened to suspend sales of Macmillan books, but Amazon wasn't bluffing and pulled the plug, prompting the removal of Amazon links from the Sci-fi authors site. It's hard to believe that's the only thing that caused Amazon to blink first and reinstate Macmillan's titles, though: including those costing $15.

Macmillan reckons it was just after more flexibility in pricing, and that it needs to charge that much to recoup its investment. But ebooks haven't demonstrated that flexibility before: ebook prices don't drop when the paperback edition comes out, and once a book ends up remaindered in the bargain bin, ebook buyers are still expected to pay the full price.

It remains likely that readers will pay more for early access to the latest Dan Brown, as the hardback buyers do now. But the whole model of book pricing is open to question and there will be more blood spilled before a rational model is achieved. ®

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