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Macmillan books breaks ranks with pricing for Kindle reader

Wal-Mart is helping develop the first hybrid semitrailer truck with ArvinMeritor Inc. in Michigan. It uses batteries to get up to 48 mph, then the diesel engine kicks in for highway speeds.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Wal-Mart is helping develop the first hybrid semitrailer truck with ArvinMeritor Inc. in Michigan. It uses batteries to get up to 48 mph, then the diesel engine kicks in for highway speeds.

One of the nation's six biggest book publishers, Macmillan, has broken ranks over the $9.99 pricing model for Amazon.com's Kindle e-reader.

After its titles disappeared from Amazon's retail Web site in a pricing kerfuffle last week, the Seattle retailer disclosed that Macmillan digital book releases will be priced at $12.99 to $14.99 starting in March.

After selling books for Kindle for a loss at $9.99, Amazon will revert to a more standard 30 percent retail markup for Macmillan books sold on Kindle.

Amazon said it had little choice because Macmillan has a monopoly on its book titles. Macmillan countered that it is protecting intellectual property while maintaining a fair marketplace for other booksellers.

Going forward, Macmillan said, it will not hold back e-versions of new books to keep from undermining prices of new hardcovers.

The higher price option is essentially the same deal the five other big book publishers signed with Apple for its iBookstore that, starting in March, will supply electronic books for the new iPad reader, reported the New York Times.

Despite opposition from the recording industry, Apple's iTunes ended up becoming the price setter for downloaded music sold online. Perhaps Apple's iPad will be in the book world, too.

• • •

Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, meaning more of an estimated $17 billion spent on holiday gifts will shift from stores to restaurants.

So says IBIS World, which sees sales of Valentine's jewelry, flowers and candy falling while spending in restaurants leaps 8 percent over last year.

President's Day falling the Monday after Valentine's also enhances chances for three-day weekend getaways.

"We've learned men are not as likely to shop on the weekend for Valentine's, so they are more likely to opt for a romantic dinner," said Toon van Beek, senior analyst at the market research firm which figures half of Valentine's spending will go to restaurants.

• • •

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. re-mapped truck fleet routes to deliver 150 million more cases of goods while driving 90 million fewer miles last year. The chain pared $10 million off its fuel bill by imposing a "no idle" rule — drivers heat and cool their truck cabs with small generators during long breaks.

But the discount store giant knows that hitting an ambitious goal of doubling the energy efficiency of its truck fleet by 2015 will require alternative fuels.

So the operator of the nation's largest truck fleet (7,000 tractors, 55,000 trailers) is testing liquefied natural gas in eight trucks in California and using fuel reclaimed from store grease traps to power 15 trucks in Arizona.

It's also is helping develop what's touted as the world's first hybrid semi rig.

Outfitted with aerodynamic cowling, it's a mighty big version of a Toyota Prius taking shape at the ArvinMeritor Inc. works in Coldwater, Mich.

Pulling a 30-ton load, it can hit 48 mph on battery power before the diesel engine kicks in to run at maximum efficiency and recharge the batteries for another 10-minute burst. Trouble is, the 52-foot rig and its 2,000-pound lithium ion batteries are too heavy. So a lighter vehicle and battery are coming.

How quiet is a battery-powered semi?

"On my first test drive I asked how to turn on the engine and was told it was already running," said Elizabeth Freitheim, Wal-Mart director of logistics, business strategy and sustainability. "At 40, it hums like a golf cart."

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Macmillan books breaks ranks with pricing for Kindle reader 02/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 1, 2010 9:15pm]
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