Book pricing datapoints of the day

By Felix Salmon
November 18, 2010

When a big new book comes out, the publisher has two choices. It can allow Amazon to sell the Kindle edition at a much lower price than the hardback, increasing the number of copies sold but possibly cannibalizing hardback sales. Alternatively, it can force Amazon to charge a high price for the Kindle edition, garnering a passive-aggressive note on the website saying “This price was set by the publisher.”

The result looks something like this. All the Devils are Here, published by Penguin Portfolio, is $16.99 on the Kindle; Decision Points, published by Crown, is $9.99. And in return for allowing Amazon to subsidize the Kindle price, it seems that Crown has agreed not to sell the book in Apple’s iBook store:

All the Devils are Here Decision Points
List price $32.95 $35.00
Amazon price $17.50 $18.77
Amazon sales rank 7 1
Kindle price $16.99 $9.99
Kindle sales rank 16 1
iBook price $16.99 N/A
Audiobook price $20.98 $26.25

And here’s the tag cloud for the Kindle edition of All the Devils are Here:


It’s easy to overstate how representative the vocal protestors are, but it’s certainly clear that e-book buyers are price-sensitive. Has an e-book priced at more than $10 ever made it to the top of the Kindle bestseller list?


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A lot has been written about this issue elsewhere. A quick google will bring you up to speed on amazon’s battle with publishers, why books from Random House are not available in the iBookstore. And yes, a non-$9.99 book has been the #1 kindle book before, quite a few times. The bestselling kindle book is almost always the same as the bestselling physical book. If it happens to be from a publisher that uses the agency pricing model it is unlikely to be $9.99.

The $9.99 boycott thing is a bit of a canard. Isn’t it odd that “average joes” commenting on amazon conform to amazon’s pricing scheme? Why don’t they agitate for $8.99. Or $1.99? I like that better than $9.99.

Posted by ShemC | Report as abusive

Off topic:

Felix, huge story on the collapse of microcredit in the Times. This is right up your alley. asia/18micro.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepa ge

Posted by DanHess | Report as abusive