The annoying eBook vs. Paperback Pricing

I’m an avid Kindle user for more than a year. However once in a while, I come across something like this when I shopping for a new book:

As you can see, Amazon sells Kindle edition for higher price than a paperback. This book of course isn’t the only example for this ridiculous pricing method, and if one browses the Kindle store he will surely find more.

This really upsets me, as there is no honest reason to price an electronic edition higher than a real dead-tree paper edition. In both cases, the author and the publisher get their royalities and share of the profits. But the Kindle editions doesn’t have many related expenses, like storage, transportation (from the publisher to Amazon), and above all printing costs.

I don’t know who is to blame for this absurd thing, Amazon or the publisher (or even both). But the few things I know are that this bad for everyone, the customer because he pays more and Amazon/publisher as in the long run, this encourages piracy as the customer feels he’s being unfairly treated thus he will be more willing to play an unfair game as well.

7 thoughts on “The annoying eBook vs. Paperback Pricing

  1. Tzafrir Cohen

    הסבר אפשרי: יש לאמזון, או למישהו אחר, עודפים ממהדורת הנייר של אותו הספר והם צריכים להיפטר מהעודפים.

    האם הפרש המחיר עקבי?

  2. Guy Post author

    After writing the post, I decided to research the subject a bit more and found Nathan Bransford’s explanation. He claims it’s more an issue of a pricing model, than a matter of getting rid of stock. He suggests that the hardcover books have an wholesale model, where the publisher takes half the suggested retail price and the retailer (Amazon) sets the actual price, giving any discount from it’s share, while eBooks have an “agency” model, where the publisher sets the price (actual one) and the retailer gets some percentage of it. Cheaper hardcovers, Nathan says, are result of the retailer using them as a loss-leader.

    However, I’m not sure this explanation remains sound for older books which are now mainly marketed in paperback. Paperback books, seems to me less appealing candidates for a loss-leader as mostly the books are past their “buzz” period.

    @Tzafrir, your suggestion that it’s related to getting rid of stock sounds might be possible, but it’s also happening to books which are popular enough to suggest otherwise, like” The Spy Who Came In from the Cold” and gets a new printing every few years (BTW I bought that one couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it).

  3. OrenH

    I didn’t check the link to Nathan yet, but I believe that Amazon simply follows the same business model as inkjet printers: sell the platform for affordable price, then get the users in a ‘vendor lock-in’, then the real income will come, continuously.

    They wouldn’t have done that if real books were a threat to eBook sales, but I think it’s not the case. Personally at least, I prefer eBooks now.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t resist or that such posts shouldn’t be written to raise people’s awareness. Just explaining that Amazon’s move is not surprising, even though it’s nasty.

  4. Guy Post author

    While I believe as well that amazon sacrificed profits on Kindle’s hardware for future profits from content, it seems that it’s unlikely to be the razor and blades business model per se as ebook pricing seems to be an agency model. The move to agency model as actually increased the price of ebooks, as publishers believed that Amazon was setting the ebook prices too cheap, which they were afraid would hurt their profits in the long run as consumers learn to expect that price range.

  5. DavidL

    Lets consider the simplest explanation: demand. If the demand for the ebook version was lower than the paperback and hardcover versions, they couldn’t get away with charging more for it. They would be losing sales and therefore, profits.

  6. T. Lockhart

    I agree with the initial post. I’ve been researching buying an e-reader and if the e-books aren’t cheaper than a paperback, than I don’t see the point in going to the EXTRA expense of buying one.
    I also find the selection of ebooks not good enough.

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