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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 20, 2010 at 10:01 AM

As Apple haggles with publishers on tablet, Amazon ups Kindle royalties

Apple’s reportedly haggling with book publishers over deals to put their content on the slate computing device the company’s expected to announce next week.

But it’s not the only “A” company that’s hustling its book platform this week.

Amazon today announced new royalty rates for books distributed via its Kindle platform, offering authors and publishers a 70 percent royalty after distribution costs, as long as they keep their Kindle editions priced below $9.99 and 20 percent less than paper editions. The rates apply to authors and publishers using the company’s self-service Digital Text Platform for self-publishing.

Whether that rebuffs Apple is unclear as the new royalties are aimed at smaller publishers using the self-publishing platform. The price limitations attached the royalties are also a sore spot for publishers, according to a Publisher’s Marketplace story relayed by’s on Apple’s talks with publishers:

“What is clear is that US publishers are desperate to combat the $10 Kindle price tag pushed by, and believe that if enough weight is given to it other retailers will be forced to follow. But PM notes that Amazon executives are also in New York meeting with publishers and agents this week with “simultaneous ebook release of new titles and pricing” foremost in their minds.”

Apple would be the latest of many competitors challenging Amazon’s nascent Kindle business, with more reading devices being introduced by startups with intriguing new technology and consumer electronics giants such as Sony and Samsung.

But with the hardware’s evolution still in its early stage the real battle now is over whose standards and publishing tools will dominate the business. Will Amazon, Apple, Google or someone else run the iTunes of publishing?

Amazon’s Digital Text Platform terms have offered a 35 percent royalty after various charges. Its press release suggests publishers generally receive about a 25 percent royalty for books

“Today, authors often receive royalties in the range of 7 to 15 percent of the list price that publishers set for their physical books, or 25 percent of the net that publishers receive from retailers for their digital books,” Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle content, said in the release. “We’re excited that the new 70 percent royalty option for the Kindle Digital Text Platform will help us pay authors higher royalties when readers choose their books.”

All they need now is a color, touchscreen Kindle. Or maybe just a nice Kindle app for the Apple iTablet.

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