The Price Difference Between Book and Kindle Prices on Amazon

Price Difference Between Book and Kindle Prices on Amazon

Since my last post about Amazon, where I found a price disparity between two versions of the same Kindle book, my interest in e-book pricing and publishing has been rekindled (no pun intended) and I spent a bit of time putting together a few numbers to illustrate the instability of pricing models in the world of e-books.

My method was simple: take a look at the top 10 books in specific genres, curated by Amazon, and record the book price and the e-book price of each book on the list.

Here are a few notes I should mention:

  • Price selection: I decided to grab the cheapest Amazon price I could find for the physical copy of the book, as well as the cheapest Kindle price I could find for the e-books. This ensured that the prices were fair, making sure they were being sold by Amazon, and it would be consistent throughout.
  • Book selection: I went with the Amazon list because they were the most convenient to find, I will be spending time later on for the other e-reader platforms to ensure that I have a complete look of the landscape throughout ALL providers. Amazon is just the largest and most influential, so it was the best place to start.
  • Price difference: The “Price Difference” column is the Kindle Price minus the Book Price. This number gives us an idea of how much more expensive the Kindle prices are compared to the physical book prices, with red signifying the Kindle version is more expensive than the physical version.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s dive into the lists by genre as provided by Amazon.

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Title Author Book Price Kindle Price Difference
Ready Player One Ernest Cline $10.99 $12.02 $1.03
The Magician King: A Novel Lev Grossman $10.88 $12.28 $1.40
Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle, Book 4) Christopher Paolini $18.47 $16.39 -$2.08
A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) George R.R. Martin $9.99 $17.48 $7.49
Embassytown China Miéville $10.88 $15.30 $4.42
Among Others Jo Walton $10.19 $12.62 $2.43
Akata Witch Nnedi Okorafor $12.23 $17.99 $5.76
Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) James S. A. Corey $10.87 $9.99 -$0.88
The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) Patrick Rothfuss $11.49 $12.37 $0.88
Vortex Robert Charles Wilson $10.40 $7.39 -$3.01
Quick Stats: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Average Book Price: $11.64
Average Kindle Price: $13.38
Average Price Difference: $1.74
Largest Price Difference: $7.49

Literature & Fiction

Title Author Book Price Kindle Price Difference
The Art of Fielding: A Novel Chad Harbach $10.99 $9.99 -$0.20
1Q84 Haruki Murakami $16.62 $18.58 $1.96
The Marriage Plot: A Novel Jeffrey Eugenides $10.88 $10.92 $0.04
The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel Tea Obreht $10.20 $14.20 $4.00
The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern $9.00 $13.11 $4.11
The Lover’s Dictionary: A Novel David Levithan $10.40 $12.62 $2.22
Lost Memory of Skin Russell Banks $10.19 $9.99 -$0.20
The Sisters Brothers Patrick deWitt $10.19 $9.68 -$0.51
The Cat’s Table Michael Ondaatje $10.20 $11.99 $1.79
Please Look After Mom Kyung-Sook Shin $10.17 $15.30 $5.13
Quick Stats: Literature & Fiction
Average Book Price: $10.80
Average Kindle Price: $12.64
Average Price Difference: $1.83
Largest Price Difference: $5.13

Mystery & Thrillers

Title Author Book Price Kindle Price Difference
Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel S. J. Watson $10.19 $13.47 $3.28
Reamde: A Novel Neal Stephenson $12.91 $14.96 $2.05
Feast Day of Fools (Hackberry Holland) James Lee Burke $9.99 $13.64 $3.65
11/22/1963 Stephen King $13.59 $16.99 $3.40
Sister: A Novel Rosamund Lupton $10.99 $12.02 $1.03
A Trick of the Light: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Louise Penny $13.70 $12.68 -$1.02
The Most Dangerous Thing (P.S.) Laura Lippman $10.19 $11.97 $1.78
The Night Strangers Chris Bohjalian $10.20 $15.30 $5.10
Turn of Mind Alice LaPlante $10.20 $17.48 $7.28
The Affair: A Jack Reacher Novel Lee Child $9.99 $12.02 $2.03
Quick Stats: Mystery & Thrillers
Average Book Price: $11.20
Average Kindle Price: $14.05
Average Price Difference: $2.86
Largest Price Difference: $7.28

Given my small sample of data, it’s hard to draw any real conclusions. What was apparent from this small sample is that Kindle e-books are priced significantly higher than physical books on Amazon, but the reason for that is difficult to figure out. I am sure publishers could blame piracy, or immaturity of the e-book market, or antiquated supply chains that haven’t become accustomed to publishing and promoting digital content.

Regardless, I hope that prices for digital books come down to reasonable levels. While “reasonable” can be subjective, I personally think that it’s reasonable for e-books to be priced below the price of the mass market paperback.

For my next research project, I’m going to run the same books through the Nook and Kobo stores and compare their prices, so we can get an idea if this problem is just for Amazon or accross the board.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to give feedback or ask questions in the comments!

  • http://twitter.com/septerr Swapna Gupta

    I would’ve expected the ebooks to be cheaper. They don’t require physical manufacturing, packaging or home delivery. They probably do incur Amazon a persistent charge in the form of keeping them stored in their servers and keeping track of who bought which book, so the buyers can re-download their books. They could very well expire the re-download for a purchase after a certain amount of time. But it is possible, the lifelong storage of the digital books management of their ownership, downoads etc. make an ebook more expensive for Amazon.

  • http://www.jonlim.ca/ Jon Lim

    I expected them to be cheaper as well.

    However, the cost of storing the books is probably close to nil – Amazon has leagues of servers at their control, I doubt a book that’s a couple hundred kbs would create a storage issue.

    And, as I found out in my last post, it’s actually the publishers who set the prices. They take Amazon’s 30% into account, and then some.

  • zedd

    the ebook prices are set by the publisher by their new agency model, you know the one the DOJ is suing them for?

  • http://www.jonlim.ca/ Jon Lim

    Yes, quite aware!

    This post wasn’t an attack on Amazon at all – I am just using their numbers out of convenience because they are the largest player and they had a nicely organized list for me to take a look at.

    I’m looking at Kobo and Nook numbers over the weekend, though I have been told that many will be the same because of said Agency Model.

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.facebook.com/RSPhotographer Ron Sinclair

    This is pretty much for best-sellers only. I usually buy older books and they are much much cheaper on the Kindle.

  • http://www.jonlim.ca/ Jon Lim

    You’re right. The reason I chose the “Top Books of 2011″ list was because I wanted a non-biased selection of books.

    My books, on average, are cheaper than their physical books. But that’s because I am choosing them myself and refuse to buy the ones that are significantly more expensive.

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