barnes.jpegThe focus over the last couple of weeks –rightfully so- has been cast on the battle between Amazon and Macmillan. It appears that as the dust settles, the collateral damage is more widespread than initially thought.

Barnes and Noble has recently begun raising its e-book prices leaving many of its loyal Nookers exasperated. Their sense of betrayal is a theme becoming more and more common in the e-book world as customers are feeling like victims of the classic “bait and switch” tactic: the bait being the purported savings to be found in e-books and the switch being the DRM-laden, increasingly over-priced books they are getting. Take for instance Denise PW who writes:

Shame on B&N for this outrageous price increase! This is totally unacceptable! You finally got your ereader product in some semblance of working order, & this is how you reward your customers? You jack up the prices so beyond the realm of reason? If this is the result of publisher pressure, then B&N should tell us. Otherwise, I will lay the blame at B&N & their greed. Which reminds me why I really stopped going to B&N & preferred Borders…

Many of these Nook users are raising the same concerns Kindle users have already raised regarding the feasibility of charging more than 9.99 per e-book.

Their objections center around the DRM that Barnes and Noble insists on using as well as their pricing practices which result in e-books that sell for more than even the hardcover. Reading Bum captures the growing sense of frustration that Nook users are feeling as he states:

“Think about it. We don’t even own these books. We’re only licensing them. But yet we’re still being charged more than a paper back and in some cases a hardcover. That’s ridiculous and far from fair. I’d rather them withhold the e-book until the paperback comes out, and then charge us a fair price! I’ll wait”

When the Nook came out some people—this writer included—speculated that Barnes and Noble was planning on using a “copier cartridge” approach to e-books, in which the reader would eventually sell for less than a Kindle but be subsidized by higher e-book prices. This plan was delayed as Barnes and Noble attempted to compete with Kindle e-book prices.

But now that it has built a relatively strong e-reader following for its device, it has chosen to raise its prices. There are many possible explanations but the most salient has to be its attempting to not cannibalize paper book sales. Sadly, Nook users could serve as a control group while Kindlers could serve as the experimental group, for us to finally test whether or not “actively” boycotting is truly more efficient at holding down prices than “passively” boycotting: the latter being nothing more than allowing market forces to dictate price elasticity. There appears to be considerably more resistance to boycotting higher prices in the land of Nook than presently exists with the Kindle. Slaughter S. captures the prevailing consensus:

“I ain’t going to boycott squat. I am going to read what I want to and need to. Price is only part of the equation … probably the smaller one. I would rather pay double for a really great read than screw around with some piece of cheap trash. The publishers know that and, you know what? They charge what the market will bare. Your logic is eminently assailable. For example you would have someone fail to read something that can benefit them because it costs $15.00 instead of $10.00? That’s really and quite literally stupid. By your logic, you should be reading comic books. Cheap knowledge … yeah that’s how to get ahead.”

If I were a Nook user I would feel a strange sense of commonality with a Snook, because you are probably about to be hooked by unfair pricing and DRM.

Editor’s Note: You can find the discussions on this topic at the Barnes & Noble ebook discussion forums here.