Publishers Lunch reported the following:
Harper told a wide swath of ebook accounts that they would return to full agency for ebooks as of Tuesday morning Pacific time. In September 2012, when HarperCollins was the first settling publisher to comply with the consent decrees through “agency lite” pricing, they also raised many of their consumer list ebook prices, often by many dollars above the original iBooks pricing “brackets” that pegged ebook prices to print book prices. As it turned out, Harper was the only of the settling publishers to substantially adjust ebook prices during the agency lite era — netting themselves considerable additional revenue at retailers’ expense when those books were discounted.
Now that Harper is once again fixing their ebook prices in the marketplace, it appears that the house’s thinking on pricing strategy also remains fixed: Most new release hardcover titles have their ebook editions priced at $14.99 (among them T.C.Boyle’s The Harder They Come, Kimberly McCreight’s Where They Found Her, Jacqueline Winspear’s A Dangerous Place, Dennis Lehane’s World Gone By, Kim Gordon’s Girl In a Band, and Bernard Cornwell’s The Empty Throne), usually correlating to hardcovers priced at $26.99 and $27.99. A few select titles are priced higher still, from the Go Set A Watchman pre-order ($16.99) to Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, also $16.99 in ebook (and $35 in print). Harlequin’s transition to agency pricing is less clear so far. Some titles still reflect discounted non-agency pricing, while some Mira mass market and trade paperback titles are agency-priced at $7.99 or $8.99.
Whether the new release agency pricing will leave Harper as an outlier or is part of a broader return to higher ebook prices is an open question, particularly since the best current measure is informal surveying of the market. Macmillan imprints have a number of current ebook releases at $14.99 (along with the Jonathan Franzen pre-order), though many of their recently-published ebooks are priced lower. Most of Hachette Book Group’s popular titles in current release appear to be priced in the $12.99 to $9.99 range, but the pre-orders for a number of their big commercial fiction authors at $14.99, with some nonfiction pre-orders at $16.99. Meanwhile, some retailers have already told us that the higher agency pricing correlates directly to fewer unit sales of those titles.