image164[1] Apple’s agency-model e-book prices appealed to publishers by being several dollars higher than Amazon’s, enabling them to break out of the $9.99 trap and giving them the confidence to stand up to Amazon and insist on revamping Amazon’s own pricing scheme.

But now the New York Times is reporting that Apple’s iBooks prices may be closer to Amazon’s for the books that count. Citing anonymous sources privy to the discussions between Apple and the major publishing houses, the Times says Apple wants to reserve to itself the right to discount the e-book versions of bestsellers and lower-than-average-priced hardcovers, perhaps even as low as Amazon’s $9.99.

Given that Amazon itself by and large only discounted bestsellers to $9.99, selling e-books of midlist hardcovers for several dollars more, Apple’s pricing scheme is beginning to sound a lot more like Amazon’s in disguise—and unlike Amazon’s old scheme, Apple will still be able to earn revenue on these titles thanks to its agency pricing model.

Does this mean that Apple might be able to offer some bestsellers at $9.99 while Amazon is locked into selling them at the pricing Macmillan and others assign them? Or will Amazon require price parity as part of its negotiations?

Meet the new e-book store, same as the old e-book store?