Rant on Kindle Prices

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...
Cover via Amazon

The new book by JD Robb, New York to Dallas, came out September 13. The price for its various editions look like this:

Kindle: $14.99

Hardcover: $15.51

Paperback: $7.99

MP3 CD: $16.49

Audible: $23.95

In what world does the Kindle version cost nearly twice the paperback version?  It makes no sense. Most people would get the paperback over the Kindle. And I am thinking that’s the whole point; the publisher is pricing the Kindle version absurdly high so it won’t sell. They don’t want to sell Kindle books.

But I have no space; I cannot buy any more physical books and I have no intention of paying fifteen dollars for the Kindle version. I have the New York to Dallas on hold from the library (the city library). When I get it, it will live on my table, because there is no space on my shelves.

I am thinking one of the reasons they can do that is because JD Robb (also known as Nora Roberts) is a bestselling author; everything she writes ends up on the New York Times bestseller list. Plus, the In Death books is a long, beloved series (no, I don’t know why New York to Dallas doesn’t have the words In Death in it like every other book in the series). People hurry to get them. I did in high school. (I am more patient these days.)

The top fifteen books from the New York Times bestseller list for September 18: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson & Marchall Karp, 1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber, Blind Faith by CJ Lyons, The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan, The Abbey by Chris Culver, The Lincoln Lawyer, Canyons of Night by Jayne Castle, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, One Day by David Nicholls, Second Son by Lee Child, Only Yours by Susan Mallery, One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost, A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Marin and Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens.

Out of fifteen books, there are two whose kindle editions are more expensive than the paperback, four are the exact same price, two more are almost exactly the same price. Three are in ebook version only and one is not yet out in paperback. Only three price their kindle and paperbook version different.

I’ve heard that ebooks don’t cost that much less to produce, that the storage and distribution of physical books make up the smallest cost of producing them. But even that slight difference isn’t reflected in the prices of a quarter of these books. As for the two whose kindle price is almost exactly the same – one has a difference of 6 pennies; the other has a difference of $1.19. I am not buying 6 cents is the cost of storage and distribution of physical books. 1.19? Maybe. I don’t know (because the publishers won’t give out exact numbers) but it could be.

Only the Harlequin books have a price difference I have no difficulty buying: $2.61. Near as I can tell, I think they are also the only ones who still let Amazon set the price.

Only twelve of the books on this list are published traditionally; the other three are self-published. The other twelve? I cannot help but feel 7 or 8 of them are trying to rip me off. It’s outrageous.

Plus, I also feel they are trying to keep people from buying ebooks and that makes no sense at all.

Kindle more expensive than paperback:

Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp. Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, imprint of Hachette. Paperback: $9.77. Kindle: 12.99. Hardcover: 14.71

One Day by David Nicholls. Publisher: Knopf Doubleday, imprint of Random. Kindle: 11.99. Paperback: 9.97.

Exactly the same price for Kindle and paperback:

Canyons of Night: Book Three of the Looking Glass Trilogy by Jayne Castle. Publisher: Jove, imprint of Berkley, owned by Penguin.

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. Grand Central Publishing, formerly Warner Books, now owned by Hachette. Reissue edition

One Grave at a Time, by Jeaniene Frost. Publisher: HarperCollins.

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue, by Stephanie Laurens Publisher: HarperCollins.

Slight difference between Kindle and paperback price:

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin, imprint of Macmillan. Kindle: 9.99 Paperback July 5, 2011: 9.54. Hardcover: 13.59. Difference of 6 cents.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Publisher: Berkley Trade, imprint of Penguin. Kindle: 9.99. Paperback: 8.80. Hardcover: 14.97. Difference of 1.19 cents.

Significant difference between Kindle and paperback:

1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber. Published by Mira, imprint of Harlequin. Price set by Amazon. Kindle: 5.38. Paperback: 7.99

Blind Faith by CJ Lyons. Publisher: Createspace. Kindle: .99. Paperback: 12.59

Only Yours by Susan Mallery. Publisher: Harlequin. Price set by Amazon. Kindle: 5.38. Paperback: 7.99

Books with no physical edition.

Second Son by Lee Child. Publisher: Delacorte, imprint of Dell, owned by Random. Second Son is in ebook format only, probably because it’s only 161kb or only 40 pages. I’ve heard 40 pages is not a good length for print. Before I saw this, I didn’t know any of the big publishers put some stuff in ebook only format.

The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. Publisher: Amazon digital services. Kindle: .99.

The Abbey by Chris Culver. Publisher: Amazon digital services. Kindle: .99

Only Hardcover

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin. Publisher: Random House. Kindle price is 14.99, hardcover price is 18.80.


17 thoughts on “Rant on Kindle Prices

  1. Wow this is outrageous! I really believe this is the traditional publishers once again shooting themselves in the foot. I want those books…actually in book form…but now I am going to wait a really long time before I get them from the library.
    I am so glad my publisher wasn’t greedy in pricing my e-book.

  2. I assume the prices are coming from publishers who have traditionally made their money from print books and want to sell as many hard copies they can from the initial print run. It only makes sense that the cost factor for the digital copies is mostly in the initial set-up, but they probably have some high marketing costs to defray and higher author royalties. I would imagine after the sales have started to die down they probably lower the cost of the ebooks just like the hard copies would end up in the bargain bins.

    Since the technology is still relatively new, these companies are probably doing a lot of experimentation to see what the market will bear and to see what works best for them. The actions of the consumers will speak loudly I’m sure. If people do pay the prices the companies ask, then the companies will continue to pursue that marketing style.

    Doesn’t really affect me since I haven’t started buying ebooks yet and I very rarely buy books at regular bookstore prices.

    Tossing It Out

    1. I am not sure ebooks have higher marketing costs than traditionally published books. It’s not like they are being marketed differently. Except with traditionally published books the publisher can buy display space in bookstores. And if authors do get higher royalties, they would also get less of an advance, so it probably works out in the end. Anyway, I’ve only heard of smaller publishers doing that.

  3. Unless the author is one of the few biggies with an enormous salary what could cost more then producing the books? unless they are counting the running of the publishing house. That just doesn’t male sense to me- not that I am even close to an expert. And it’s ridiculous that the paperback is cheaper then the e-book- maybe they have a bad contract and don;t make as much on the e-book so they have fixed the prices to get more money?

    1. Running the publishing house probably counts. After all it is run from the profits of book sales. But no, I meant, paying for editors, book design, cover design, stuff like that. All that is supposed to cost more than printing, storing and distributing the book. Not sure about bad contracts, but I don’t think the author has ever had much say in how much the book sells for.

  4. Both the print-on-demand service provider I used and the Kindle self-publishing program allow the DIY indie author to set the basic retail price for their books. The paperback editions have a production cost that is taken from the retail price (shipping is added later and doesn’t affect the author’s cut, so it isn’t a factor.) Ebooks don’t have any production costs to speak of, unless the author has hired a professional company to do the ebook conversion for them. I did my own, so it cost nothing but time and some frustration before I got it right. This is one reason I set the price for my novels’ paperback editions about $3.00 higher than the ebook editiions. Also, being a tree-lover, I want to encourage people to buy the paperless version, unless they have a particular reason for getting a physical book. However, an author who spends serious money to hire someone to convert their manuscript to an ebook for them might need to set the price higher to make up for the expense. Technophobes in particular may need to hire someone to get the job done.

  5. I can buy e-books being AS expensive as, say, a mass-market paperback. When you take into account the labor of editing, formatting, cover art, etc. the consumer really IS still getting what they paid for. (And honestly, I’m cool with still paying $8 for a book. It seems worth it.) But the e-book being more expensive than the physical copy is something I can’t say I understand. I know that for huge print runs, the cost per copy for a big publisher is really low, but I have a hard time seeing it as being less than the cost per copy for a Kindle version.

    I especially don’t understand why publishers would try to discourage readers from buying e-books for one big reason. When a publisher distributes a copy of The Da Vinci Code, they get profit from that copy one time. If the book goes to a second-hand shop, more people read it, but the publisher doesn’t get any further profit. Used books are, essentially, 100% profit for the second-hand shop. However, there’s no such thing as a used e-book. Individual buyers have to have individual copies. Even if the copies are “loaned” out, the loan period is only 14 days or so.

    I don’t know, it all seems pretty common sense to me, but then I guess I don’t understand big corporate business sense at all.

  6. You have to bear in mind that there is a different middleman with ebooks that publishers are still just figuring out how to deal with. Amazon takes its cut, and it’s pretty big – something like 30%. Other online outlets take similar amounts.

    Barnes and Noble probably didn’t take that high a cut from the sale of a dead-tree book. So the publisher is actually out some money. They aren’t looking at it as “Does it cost more to make?” They’re looking at it as a question of “How much do we make per sale?”

    After Amazon’s cut and the cut that the publisher has to give to the author, they probably make less money per copy sold on the Kindle version than they do on the paperback version. And the way they share that love with us is… well… higher prices. It’s counter-intuitive because it’s clear to us that “printing” another eBook is massively cheaper than printing a hard copy and shelving it, but the real cost difference to the publisher is their negotiations with the sellers. And their negotiations with Amazon didn’t go well.

    1. Well, that is clear to me. LOL

      But bookstores buy paperbacks from the publisher (and the stores set their own price!!) and when they paperback and kindle version are the same price – do you think the bookstore pays the publisher less than 30% of the book’s price?

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