Amazon and Barnes and Noble Online Pricing: What’s Up With That?

If you haven’t heard by now, there was much outrage in Romanceland in the days before and during the Thanksgiving Day weekend. The issue? The Kindle price for Eloisa James’ When the Duke Returns was reported by AAR Alert Readers to be an incredibly inflated $14.99.  

Much sputtering later (and, okay, so I was one of the sputterers), it turns out that the price was a mistake (I have no idea whose) and a correct price was later posted. Only there’s a problem: It’s $7.99. The exact same price as the paperback edition. And, gee, isn’t the cost to produce an ebook a mere fraction of the cost to produce an actual paper book? Well, good luck with that, Avon.

Being the sleuth that I am, however, I noticed something equally outrageous: The paperback price is listed on Amazon as $7.99. Not the $6.49 or the like to which we’ve all grown accustomed. What the heck happened to the Amazon discount?

But it’s not just Avon. To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt is priced at $6.99 (Forever), Catherine Mulvany’s Wicked is the Night (Pocket) is $6.99, Pagan Stone by Nora Roberts (Jove) is $7.99, and Robin Kaye’s Romeo, Romeo (Sourcebooks) is also $6.99. Berkley Sensation seems to be pretty much alone in holding the discount line with Erin McCarthy’s trade paperback Flat Out Sexy priced at $10.78, down from $14.00.

As for the prices at Barnes and Noble online: Ditto. On all of the above.

And guess what? Of the books that I checked, the prices on the backlists of the authors above are list prices, too. So, in effect, any discounts seem to have been retroactively removed.

The good news is that Avon seems to be standing alone in that Kindle pricing thing. All of the books above – except Avon new releases – have discounted Kindle prices. Which is as it should be.

Since I’m a fan of vast conspiracies, I wonder if there was some sort of meeting in a smoke-filled room amongst various publishers to abandon online discounts? As Amazon repeats over and over, publishers set prices for books.

So, what do you think? In a time when almost everybody is feeling the squeeze, will the price increase affect the number of books you buy? Are you outraged? Or, on the other hand, do you accept the higher prices as a manifestation of the grim reality that many publishers (as discussed here last week) are facing the same economic pressures as consumers? Are higher prices…well, just the price we have to pay?

-Sandy AAR

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29 Responses to “Amazon and Barnes and Noble Online Pricing: What’s Up With That?”

  1. Rike says:

    Isn’t this just ordinary pricing before Christmas? They know we all want/need to buy presents and are prepared to pay the full price, so they remove most discounts until January? Mind you, the prices for newly published US books have risen dramatically at the Germany Amazon site, too, but I was blaming currency rates.

  2. AAR Rachel says:

    I’ve noticed any paperback discount has been gone for a long time now. I only order paperbacks from Amazon if I’m

    1) ordering in bulk so don’t have to pay shipping
    2) don’t need to read the book STAT

    Otherwise, my strategy is to buy category romance from the supermarket where there is definitely a discount or support my local non-chain bookseller who charges full price but is local so I can get what I want without the wait.

  3. Tee says:

    Yay for the libraries!

    As with anything else, if the people pay the prices, they’ll continue to keep it at those levels. Why not?

    Gas prices finally dropped here in the US because gas consumption went down and it’s scaring the oil-producing countries a bit. So they treat us like addicts and drop the prices making it more affordable. We begin using more gas and buy it excitedly every time we see a station advertising rates that are too good to be true. In a couple of months, the prices will be back up at the pumps, as will probably consumption. They’re playing with our minds!

    Nothing different with the books or anything else when you’re dealing in the commercial profit world.

  4. RfP says:

    Yes, publishers set list prices, but I thought Amazon set–or negotiated–their own discount.

  5. AAR Sandy says:

    Rike, as a rule, prices go down not up here in the U.S. before Christmas. Amazon has been particularly stable in pricing, however.

    Rachel, I’m turning into more of a Kindle reader. But not at full price!

    Tee, you’re right. I think, actually, that higher prices will affect me in that if I’m iff-y on a book I’ll be more inclined to wait.

    Rfp, you’ve got me on this one since I just don’t know. I’m not sure if it’s a chicken or egg situation, but I just noticed that the discounts seemed to be gone.

  6. AAR Rachel says:

    Sandy,
    I would really like a Kindle, but since most of my books are acquired used, through the library, or through AAR for review, and since Kindle is still pretty expensive, it’s not worth spending the money right now.

  7. DanielleD says:

    I used to pre-order all of my books from Overstock.com — at first they were discounting mass market paperbacks sometimes up to 22% — tradesize discounts were sometimes as high as 38%. Then slowly they started to lower their discounts. Now its $0.08 cents on a mass market and $.01 cent cheaper than Amazon. When I called them and complained they told me that — “that was their rock bottom prices.” HUH!!! I can’t comment about the prices for eBooks for the Kindle, I have the Sony Reader. But I did look up their price for When A Duke Returns at the Sony store — Reg. Price $14.99 their price $7.19.

    Amazon still has their buy 3 get the 4th book free promotion?

  8. LeeB. says:

    Well, I just checked at bn.com and they do offer a discounted price on To Seduce a Sinner, if you buy their membership card ($25 for one year). Books-a-Million also offers discounted prices if you buy their card ($20 for one year).

  9. Karen Ranney says:

    I’m wondering if this price issue isn’t generated by the publishers. The reason I say that is because I have several books whose rights have reverted to me and I’ve put them on Mobipocket, which is Amazon’s ebook source. Tapestry, for example, is priced at $4.99 on Mobipocket, but Amazon sells it for $2.99. Go figure.

  10. Statch says:

    Uh, the price was apparently only a mistake for the Kindle version. Fictionwise is still listing the other versions of that book (and others published by Harper-Collins) for $14.99. (Look for When the Duke Returns at Fictionwise, click on the title, and then click on Harper-Collins ebooks (in blue) after the description. You’ll see all their ebooks priced around $14.99.

    St. Martin’s is doing similar pricing for ebooks.

    I personally won’t buy any ebook priced above the paperback price (and I think ebooks should be priced below the paperback price). For the publishers that are — I’m sorry — price-gouging, I also won’t buy the paperback version new. I’ll wait until I find it at the used bookstore.

  11. AAR Sandy says:

    Danielle D, wow. Those are substantial increases. At some point, readers will have to stop buying books — or at least so many books. I’m wondering if maybe they haven’t hit that point already.

    LeeB, a discount you have to pay for (with a per year membership) would have to be factored in to the price you’re paying for the book. Just a few weeks ago, Amazon offered discounts. Period. But if you do the math, it probably would make sense for some readers — just as Amazon Prime did for a few people I know. But, gee, I miss the discounts!

    Karen, call me cynical (okay, feel free), but I definitely am thinking this is publisher generated.

    Statch, I fundamentally won’t pay more for an ebook. I’m wondering if the Kindle price dropped because there was much outrage about it. I think a lot of people (like me until recently) didn’t even check the price of a paperback ebook because I just ass-u-med it would be lower. I’d bet some people got bitten by this one. And it’s just short-sighted craziness on Harper Collins’ part.

  12. LinnieGayl says:

    I’m using my local library much more now for any books I’m iffy about at all, as well as for authors I used to buy in hardback. I’ve also backed off a few times from downloading a book on my kindle when the price seemed too high. In my limited time with a kindle, it seems as if prices for new releases come down a bit after a few weeks.

  13. elainec says:

    If the writers are wildly popular, I can find their books at Sam’s or Walmart. Today I bought “When the Duke Returns” and “Snowy Night with a Stranger” at Sam’s for $4.88 each. Like Rachel, I order books from Barnes&Noble several at a time to get free shipping. Then I can buy books by writers that Walmart doesn’t carry. I used to buy used books from Amazon, etc., but the writers and publishers don’t get a dime from the those sales. If they don’t get money, they can’t stay in business and publish more books. Plus, buying used online can cost 4-5 dollars a book for S&H – bringing the cost close to retail. I do go to Friends of the Library used book sales. Sometimes I find books just out; other times I find five books I already bought in the previous few weeks. It always fun to talk with other book lovers while I stand in line to get in. Since I probably buy about fifteen books a month, I really pay attention to prices.
    elainec

  14. Tinabelle says:

    I have had a Kindle since May and one of the selling points was the discounted book prices. Like others, recently I have noticed wacky pricing examples and just cannot figure out what is happening. I have noticed that sometimes new releases have a higher price for a while and then the price drops.

    I believe in paying fair prices for books to support publishers and authors but the production costs for ebooks have got to be lower than printed copies and I feel that should be reflected in the price. I have gotten so spoiled reading on the Kindle that I hate buying hard copies! As budgets get tighter, I’ll be thinking more carefully about books that I buy, especially new authors or hard covers.

  15. Janet W says:

    http://www.rainydaypaperback.com/ … I spent some of Saturday choosing a loooooooooooong list of Regencies … none new but all, to my way of thinking, buy worthy: and best of all, Rainy Day Paperback (not sure if it’s OK to post a link … please advise!) …. has free shipping with $25+ … and it’s VERY hard to bundle used books, I’ve found. Another way to save money … my local library says usership is up 20% just in the last month.

    Very interesting article: I think only w/transparency will change take place.

  16. D-Day says:

    Earlier this year, I noticed that Amazon paperbacks don’t have the discount anymore. What almost all of them have, however, is a 4-for-3 deal, where you buy four paperbacks and get the lowest priced one for free. Click on the “special offers” link under the price and it will take you to the details. The discount automatically applies in your cart.

    I’ve actually increased my Amazon buying because I know that I can get a 25% discount if I buy at least four books, so I buy more books each time I place an order.

  17. EllenAAR says:

    I was checking out Clive and Dirk Cussler’s latest Dirk Pitt adventure on Amazon last week and there was much squawking about it. The Kindle price was more than the usual 9.99. I checked back today and the Kindle price has dropped. I’d really like to read it, I love Dirk Pitt! But the plot is about global warming, and the mere mention of that causes my eyes to glaze over.

  18. Gigi says:

    This is an interesting discussion. For those of you who are lucky enough to have libraries that purchase romance, that is one of the best ways to save. However, of the two libraries I use one buys a few romances and romantic suspense but the other does not buy any.

    I try to buy enough books at a time to get the free shipping from Amazon and that makes it more cost efficient as I don’t have to travel. Also many of the small independent bookstores do not carry much in the way of romance.

    If I go to Borders, I try not to balk at the price as I know, I want the authors to keep writing so I see it as support for them. I have not seen the Kindle in use but I am ot a fan of ebooks. I still like to hold the book in my hands. Old fashioned maybe!

  19. AAR Sandy says:

    LinnieGayl, I’ve noticed that there are some Kindle price drops. I think they’re still experimenting with the whole thing.

    elainec, the big box stores are great for buying major authors. It’s the midlisters who don’t get a place on the shelves. Wal-Mart can make or break a book’s success and that’s just freakin’ sad no matter how you look at it.

    Tinabelle, you’ve stated very well exactly where I am, too.

    JanetW, thanks for the link! I’ve always had an issue with high shipping and handling costs associated with buying used books online. (Off to search for some old favorites!)

    D-Day: For readers who buy a lot of books, that makes sense. At least Amazon is keeping one discount going.

    EllenAAR: My sister pointed out the exact same thing on the new J.D. Robb. I truly do think that there is some experimenting going on.

    Gigi: The library thing for me doesn’t work out. The romances they have are so musty and so old…and, well, it’s clear they just don’t care. And the small independent bookstores? My experience is that they turn their noses up at romance. Which is another post in itself.

  20. Marion Manton says:

    On the library theme – have you tried inter-library loans, for me they cost 85p, but since I can get any book in Oxfordshire it means I can get most books – and I figure I am supporting libraries which is a good thing.

  21. Anne Marble says:

    Ellen: Fictionwise.com has the e-book edition of the new Cussler available as one of its 100% MicroPay rebate titles. That means you pay their price (in this case, $23, but often, their prices for hardcovers are $16 and under) by credit card — and then you get the entire cost back in MicroPay (sort of like getting store credit). I’ve stored up a lot of credit this way. :D The Fictionwise edition is available in several formats, inclulding eReader and Microsoft Reader. (Microsoft Reader titles can easily be converted to HTML. However, doing so is considered illegal in the U.S. :\)

  22. AAR Sandy says:

    Marion, you are right — I should give it a try. I’ve heard good things about interlibrary loans and it is definitely worth checking out. Thanks!

  23. Cindy says:

    Is it true that authors receive no % of on-line sales? This is news to me. I buys lots of used books and use the library, but I often buy new books by authors I love but who don’t usually hit the best-seller lists. I just pre-ordered the next Carla Kelly on-line. Does that not help her at all?

    A quick comment on Kindle: I love mine, but I use it mostly for travel. The texture, the heft, even the smell of a real book in my hands just can’t be replaced. I definitely look at prices of Kindle books. Since I do sell on-line and at used bookstores, the fact that a Kindle book can’t be resold or traded in plays a part in my decision as to whether to buy. If they get too expensive, I won’t buy Kindle editions, regardless of the convenience.

  24. MaryK says:

    See, I’ve NEVER known Amazon to offer discounts on mass market paperbacks. Because of that, I only order mm from Amazon if they’re eligible for the 4-for-3 promotion. They do discount trade paperback and hardcover. Now I’m wondering how it is that different people were getting different pricing and how they decided who got the discount!

  25. Anne Marble says:

    Cindy: Authors do get a percentage of on-line sales (except used, of course). However, I think on-line sales don’t count as much toward placement on best-seller lists, etc.

    By the way, if the kerfuffle about the pricing of the new Cussler e-book is to be believed, publishers reserved the right to price e-books higher in the first week of release, and then lower the price later. I think the pricing of downloadable music and movies sometimes reflects that, too — music companies and movie companies want to charge more for what’s hot and new and less for slightly older releases. Compare that to DVD prices, which are often lower the week they come out because they want to entice you into buying them. What a concept. :)

  26. AAR Sandy says:

    MaryK, the discounts that I was seeing sort of went like this: A $7.99 book would sell for $6.99, a $6.99 book for $5.49 and so on.

    Cindy, the lack of being able to pass on a book is an issue with Kindle. It’s funny, though, I’ve really gotten to love the Kindle far more than I would have believed.

  27. Shawnda says:

    Try paperbackswap.com I swap books through their all the time. I use All About Romance as a guide to the good books, then go to the swap site to get them. All it costs me is $2.25 shipping on any book requested from me. What a deal!

  28. Mark says:

    As I said on a similar earlier message board thread, I established a personal rule soon after I started buying ebooks a couple years ago: I won’t buy ebooks at prices higher than mass-market paperback prices. (I use $8 as a cut-off when quickly scanning new release lists.) If they overprice, the book goes on a list waiting for decent prices. I just looked at the tbb section of my book lists, and I currently have 80 titles for which I am waiting for lowered prices. Since I have thousands of books tbr, waiting for price corrections on a few is rarely a hardship. (So far this year, I have bought from 24 to 48 ebooks per month.) I buy new as much as possible to support authors, but I refuse to support publisher greed.

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