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Old 09-27-2010, 06:50 PM   #1
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Weird two tier pricing for some Kindle books?

I've been looking to pickup some new books for my Kindle and noticed some weird price differences on some titles. Most of these seem to be on Star Trek novels but that may just be because that was mostly what I was looking at at the time.

Anyway, I noticed quite a few titles available for two different prices. One would be $7.99 and the other would be $6.39. Most of them were released on the same day and listed the same number of pages, though some of the examples I found may have been released a few weeks to a couple of months apart. The main difference I can see is that, invariably, the lower priced version will be much larger, in the 1500 kb to 1900 kb range. The higher priced versions will typically be much smaller, in the 200 kb to 500 kb range.

Oh, one other thing, though both versions are sold through Amazon, I just noticed that the smaller, more expensive versions say they're sold by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc, while the larger, less expensive versions say they're sold by Amazon Digital Services.

It really seems strange that Amazon would be selling the same title at different sizes and prices. Have any of you ever noticed this before? Does anyone know anything about this? I've listed some examples below.

Just curious.

Thanks.

- Byron Followell


http://www.amazon.com/Crucible-Kirk-...5626711&sr=1-1
219 KB
294 pages
February 27, 2007
B000NY121O
http://www.amazon.com/Crucible-Kirk-...5626711&sr=1-1
1077 KB
294 pages
February 27, 2007
B003YCQ5FU
http://www.amazon.com/Crucible-McCoy...5626875&sr=1-2
959 KB
640 pages
August 29, 2006
B000JMKRG6
http://www.amazon.com/Crucible-McCoy...5626875&sr=1-2
1785 KB
640 pages
August 29, 2006
B003YCQ05A
http://www.amazon.com/Crucible-Spock...6&sr=1-1-fkmr1
503 KB
400 pages
November 28, 2006
B000MGATYE
http://www.amazon.com/Crucible-Spock...5&sr=1-3-fkmr1
1060 KB
400 pages
November 28, 2006
B003Z6QAEG
http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Acad...3&sr=1-2-fkmr0
549 KB
464 pages
October 16, 2007
B000UZJRT0
http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Acad...3&sr=1-2-fkmr0
1026 KB
464 pages
October 16, 2007
B003YCQ11S
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Old 09-27-2010, 06:53 PM   #2
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I believe, Brian, its up to the publisher to set the price.
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Old 09-27-2010, 07:57 PM   #3
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The $7.99 ones say on the listing that the price was set by the publisher. I'm wondering, did you try to purchase the lower price ones? I wonder if you could, maybe the listing is outdated, but hasn't been deleted? No ideas, but it is interesting.
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Old 09-27-2010, 07:58 PM   #4
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it looks like a listing error to me - Simon and Schuster creating one edition at Agency Pricing and the Amazon creating a separate AISN with a discounted price.

Who knows?

Buy the cheap one.
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Old 09-27-2010, 08:08 PM   #5
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I'm not sure, but I'd guess the large files are in Topaz format. While better-looking than Mobi, they have several disadvantages, mainly they can only be read on the kindle.
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Old 09-27-2010, 10:31 PM   #6
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Thanks for the info.

bspline, I read up a little on the topaz file format. It sounds like more of a scanned image converted to some sort or reflowable pdf style document which would account for why it looks better and for why the file sizes increase anywhere from two to four times the "regular" Kindle versions.

Since this format isn't currently convertable into anything else, I'd rather not go anywhere near anything that might have the chance of being a topaz file, even to save a few bucks.

If anyone else has any more information on what the issue with these files may be, I'd be interested in hearing it. Otherwise, for now, I plan to steer clear of them.

Thanks again for the info guys.

Sincerely,
- Byron
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:10 AM   #7
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I don't know what the pricing issue is, since I'm seeing them all at $6.39 each here in Canada. Maybe they just charge newer book releases at full price, but then allow discounting to try and move the older backlist, and it's a glitch that they don't check when it comes to duplicate titles.

But I can tell you that these are likely NOT Topaz format, so you should have no worries on that point.

For future reference, you can tell a Topaz book by looking at the Product Details, and if it gives you a Print Length only, without an accompanying File Size, then it's Topaz. You can also download a sample to check the formatting.
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:24 AM   #8
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ATDrake,

Downloading the free sample is an excellent suggestion that hadn't occurred to me. I really can't think of why the file size would be so much different but I may try a couple of these and compare them. Can you tell the difference between a topaz file and and azw file just by looking? I'll try a couple and post what I find. If nothing else, I may bite the bullet and buy one if I have to. My curiosity is up now and at least a couple of these older ones can be had for as little as $1.59 for the cheaper version as compared to $5.99 or $7.99 for the other.

Thanks for the suggestion.

- Byron
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:39 AM   #9
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Yes. You have a Kindle 3, so if you pick the "Transfer via Computer" option when you get the sample, then if it downloads to your computer with a .tpz file extension instead of .azw, it's Topaz. Also, the font in a Topaz book will look non-standard.

If you get your samples wirelessly, then the Topaz extension is .azw1. Don't send it to any Kindle for PC/Mac install you've got; they both get all their books as either .prc or .azw file extensions, regardless of the format.

Also you might want to check to see if there's a table of contents, and the number of locations.

Samples are supposed to give 10% of the actual file, so if it's got the same # locations regardless of file size, it probably means that somehow the bigger book got bloated up during the formatting/conversion process (poor use of Microsoft Word's HTML export function can do this).

But sometimes books may be bundled or omnibus editions, but the title/cover image used on the product page doesn't describe this. I've read that one of the Kindle editions of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight is actually a bundle of Dragonflight and its sequel Dragonquest. So if the TOC lists chapters for two books or more, then that may account for the difference instead.

Best of luck with it.
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Old 09-28-2010, 08:26 AM   #10
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The only sure-fire way to verify the format is to open the file in a text editor: mobi files will have 'MOBI' at the top and topaz files will have 'TPZ0' at the top.
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Old 09-28-2010, 02:06 PM   #11
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Well, I downloaded some samples of the duplicates. I just downloaded them to my Kindle for PC for now so I couldn't tell for certain if they were tpz or azw files but, from the formatting and the look of the text, I think they are both azw files. The main differences I see are that the larger, less expensive version has a large, fat, stretched cover with the wrong aspect ratio, no Star Trek title page and no table of contents. The smaller, more expensive versions have these, though the cover image is very tiny. Of course, none of this means that the purchased file will be exactly like this. I'm assuming that both of these files would have a larger cover image than the one I was seeing, stretched or not. Still, from what I was seeing, I'd rather spend the extra buck or two to get the better looking version. Even though the text is the same and the formatting looked good, I'm a sucker for those nice color covers on my Star Trek novels.

Does anyone happen to know where Kindle for PC stores the files it downloads?

I'll post here if I find out more.

Thanks.

- Byron
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Old 09-28-2010, 02:17 PM   #12
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Does anyone happen to know where Kindle for PC stores the files it downloads?
(My) Documents->My Kindle Content
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Old 09-29-2010, 10:54 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by bfollowell View Post
Thanks for the info.
Since this format isn't currently convertable into anything else, I'd rather not go anywhere near anything that might have the chance of being a topaz file, even to save a few bucks.
Actually there are ways to convert Topaz books into pretty much anything else, provided you can manage your way with some scripts, and don't mind breaking some laws (depending where you are) to strip the DRM from it.

But the result isn't always pretty, as a matter of fact, it is mostly very ugly. You are right, Topaz is a poor implementation of a rip-off PDF (yeah, it is), and technically is bloated, unwieldy and unfriendly.

Then again, speaking as a graphic designer, which I am, the results can be very pretty. Proper typesetting, captions, inline images, different fonts, everything of that can be achieved through Topaz, but not every book demands it.

I've been defending Topaz up to a point quite frequently lately, and what irks me is that if Amazon hadn't put it together like a last-minute job, it could actually hold up to PDF and be a worthy addition as an e-book format. Great idea, bad, very bad implementation.
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Old 09-29-2010, 12:59 PM   #14
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I've downloaded both sample of the first example files. They are both Mobipocket format Kindle files. The larger one seems to contain jpeg files (& a much better resolution cover image) than the smaller one.

Unpacking the files, the HTML is different too, seemingly separate conversions from the same source files. The larger one seems to be slightly more recent — the ISBN number is given as an ISBN-13 as well as an ISBN-10 (the two ISBN-10s are identical). The coding is slightly more compact too (the larger size comes from the images, not the text).

Rather weird that the older one is still for sale.
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Old 09-29-2010, 05:13 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
The only sure-fire way to verify the format is to open the file in a text editor: mobi files will have 'MOBI' at the top and topaz files will have 'TPZ0' at the top.
I downloaded a book from Amazon which was being offered for free as a tie-in to the author's new book which was being released. I tried adding it to Calibre and got a message that it was a Topaz file. When I looked in the "My Kindle Content" folder it had an .azw extension but when I opened it up in Notepad++ the file started with TPZ0.
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