Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WTF? Amazon is selling some eBooks for more than pBooks.

Some big advantages of eBooks are that they take up no shelf space, arrive quickly, allow the reader to changes the type size, provide electronic bookmarks and dictionaries, and SAVE MONEY.

Readers have come to expect new and bestselling eBooks to cost $9.99, compared to $15 to $30 for the hardcover versions of the same title.


List price for 985-page Fall of Giants by Ken Follet is $36. Amazon's price for the hardcover version was  $19.39 this morning. The price for the eBook was $19.99--60 cents more--even though no paper, cloth, cardboard, ink, glue or trucks were involved in production or delivery.

The hardcover version of  Don’t Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan has a $27.99 list price. This morning, Amazon was offering it for $14--but the eBook version was priced at $14.99--nearly a buck more, despite an infinitesimal cost to produce, store or deliver.

Readers are screaming about the prices on the Amazon website, and giving the worst-possible one-star rating. Some examples:
  • I refuse to purchase this book IN ANY FORMAT until the publisher lowers the e-book price.
  • I would love to read this book, but I have no intention of paying more for an e-book than a hard copy. There is no business model, rational, debate, fact, etc. that can prove to me it costs more to publish an e-book than it does to layout, print, bind, box-up, ship, handle, receive, unload, un-box, store, shelve, ring-up, and bag a hard copy book. Until the publisher figures this out, I'll wait for the used version. It's time for them to come to terms with the technology.
  • I join in the consumer outrage that a print publisher would charge more for a digital edition than a paper edition. I sense that the conglomerate publishers need to learn a lesson, and having a book or three fail because of consumer backlash is probably the only way to get that message across to them.
  • This is corporate greed on display as the suits in their ivory tower think they can set the price for the digital version of the book anywhere they please and people will buy it just so they can have the e-book reading experience. They think we're too stupid to realize they're price gouging us. I'd like to hear one these publishing executives explain the rationale for this pricing. I'd be very interested in learning how the publishing industry can save us money by not publishing a digital edition.
  • The publisher expects more for the kindle electronic version than the hardback. It is unfortunate the publishing industry continues to live in the past. No wonder pirating is a problem. Give us a fair price for a quality product and we will buy it. Take advantage of your customers and feel their wrath. I noticed the book is falling down the rankings. Too bad for Mr. Follet, good for the consumer.
  • Love my kindle... hate this pricing. Hope this is not a trend. We should all boycott this book at this price
The weird pricing is the result of a deal that Amazon made with publishers that allows publishers to set the eBook prices while Amazon sets the pBook prices. In an effort to deflect reader wrath, Amazon's website states, “This price was set by the publisher.”

Book publishers and other booksellers have complained that Amazon has been charging too little for hardcovers (such as the 50% discount on Don't Blink), in an effort to drive out competitors.

According to the New York Times, "Russ Grandinetti, the vice president of Kindle content for Amazon, suggested that the publishers should lower their e-book prices in response to consumer complaints. Setting a price for a Kindle book that is higher than its print counterpart makes no sense. It’s bad for readers and authors, and is illogical given the cost savings of digital. We’ve seen publishers do this in a few cases, and we’ve been urging them to stop.”

The Times also quoted David Steinberger, chief executive of the Perseus Books Group: “What we are seeing is a sorting-out period as a new, very vibrant market for book content begins to develop with multiple platforms, multiple formats and multiple retailers. Ultimately as the competitive market develops and e-books go mainstream, pricing norms will develop. But that really hasn’t happened yet.”


  1. This is the pathetic agency model at work. Just ridiculous. Kill a tree, spend postage, shipping, employee labor, and still get the book cheaper than a downloaded copy? There is no legitimate reason why a hardcover should be cheaper than an ebook, except that publishers have lost their minds. I think I may have to blog about this, too.

  2. FYI, I loved this story so much I posted a link on Joe Konrath's blog. This pricing model is bullshit!