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The Apple iPad, one of the many new e-readers coming onto the market. (AP)
The Apple iPad, one of the many new e-readers coming onto the market. (AP)

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Cost of e-books to rise as publishers band together to control price Add to ...

If you were thinking about buying an e-book, you may want to do it now.

The prices of most new releases will soon be hiked by as much as 30 to 50 per cent.

A major upheaval in the e-book world is coming this Thursday, with five of the six biggest publishers in North America implementing a new pricing regime that will do away with discounting and the need for comparison shopping.

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Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster are moving to the so-called agency model, which means they will dictate the price their e-books are sold at and retailers will be forced to follow.

It's expected to result in price increases for new releases, which consumers will definitely notice, said Mike Serbinis, chief executive of Kobo, the online e-book retailer owned 58 per cent by Indigo Books & Music Inc.

The days of new releases usually priced at US$9.99 are numbered and readers can think of $12.99 or $14.99 as the new normal.

"I think what you're going to see is a lack of discounts, so consumers will notice that. So far, they've seen list prices of $29.99 and 60 per cent discounts, with the actual selling prices around 10 bucks - that will go away in general," he said.

However, there's still one major publisher that hasn't switched over to the new pricing model, Random House, and Serbinis expects its books will be discounted aggressively by retailers.

The launch of Thursday's new pricing regime was a last-minute change imposed by the publishers and retailers are scrambling to adapt by the deadline.

As a result, some titles may disappear temporarily, if all the logistics aren't sorted out in time.

"We're working feverishly, like all the other major players in this space, to get ready for Thursday, the change - I would say like all things in this space right now - has happened very fast," said Serbinis.

"There's legal stuff to do, there's IT things to do to get the new pricing and the new approach and the new rules in place in time."

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in a blog post that its new releases generally will be priced between $12.99 and $14.99, although there might be some exceptions. When books go into paperback, the e-book price typically will be reduced to a range of $6.99 to $9.99, he added.

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