So this week, Apple is set to announce “its new creation” widely rumoured to be an iPad — essentially a giant iPod Touch (as I have speculated about for ages). One of the things that device might do is challenge the burgeoning e-reader market (led to Amazon’s Kindle). But what does this mean for Australia?
At the moment, apart from the usual high prices Australians must endure for books (even on the Kindle), that device also has an additional US$2 charge per book to handle the international wireless delivery fees. That charge is also imposed on the iPhone Kindle application even though Amazon incurs no such delivery charges in that instant. Amazon would likely claim that since books can be downloaded on several devices, this charge is to reflect that option rather than its reality. However, with them also set to charge authors/publishers for delivery, such a response would seem misplaced.
So with an iPad, this might turn explicitly into farce as one could more readily expect that device to replace the Kindle. This is to Amazon’s benefit by the way as they likely earn money from the books rather than the hardware so if Apple foots the latter bill, it is all better for them. But these additional charges would fly in the face of what is reasonable and could, at the moment when Amazon is the only game in town in Australia for e-Readers, be quite appropriately the exercise of market power. This is not likely to be illegal and may well be temporary but, on another level, it highlights the asymmetric status Australians find themselves in due to copyright laws that give Australian publishers excessive rights — and allow Amazon to piggy-back additional charges on top of that. It isn’t a healthy state of affairs.