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Old 12-01-2009, 12:04 PM   #1
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Amazon, B&N and Sony Ebook Price Comparison

We've just put up a comparison of top-seller ebook pricing at Amazon, B&N, Sony and a few other retailers we index at Inkmesh on our blog:

http://inkmesh.com/blog/2009/11/30/a...ebook-pricing/

Because I own this content, I'll just copy-paste the whole thing without worrying about copyright violations *winks at HarryT*

You will have to go to the blog for a prettier version with links.

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Amazon, B&N and Sony Ebook Price Comparison

It is a well-known fact that Amazon prices Kindle books aggressively, and publishers don't exactly love them for it. At Inkmesh we wanted to find out exactly how aggressive Amazon's ebook pricing really was, and how other big players in ebook retailing stacked up. We decided to dig into the database that powers our ebook search engine, and found several things interesting enough to share.

For the purpose of this analysis, we looked at ebooks that were available at the US websites of all three retailers - Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony, and included all titles with a valid sales rank (Sony does not assign sales ranks beyond fifty, so we pulled in all Sony ebooks that had sales ranks at the other two). We ended up with 11,604 top-selling titles available at all three vendors, and ran our numbers on this set. For the purpose of comparison, we also pulled in prices for these ebooks from the other sites we index, including Lulu, Fictionwise and HarperCollins. Ebook prices and availability vary over time and geographical boundaries, so what we found reflects the state of things for US consumers in the last week of November 2009.

<<graph>>

The first thing that stood out was Amazon's dominance. Out of the 11,604 titles we looked at, Amazon's prices were lower than everyone else for 3,263 ebooks, and they matched the lowest price elsewhere for another 5,329 ebooks. Which basically means that Amazon had the best prices on 8,592 (or 74%) of the top-selling ebooks in circulation today. And the price difference wasn't insignificant either - for ebooks that were cheapest at Amazon, Kindle prices were lower than the next best price by 15% on average.

Barnes and Noble was a clear (and distant) number two - they beat everyone else's prices (including Amazon's) on only 463 titles, but matched the lowest price elsewhere on 4,837 titles. The prices confirmed how hard B&N is trying to upstage Amazon at their own game, but if B&N is looking to win on ebook prices, they probably need to try harder.

The most interesting finding, however, was Sony's poor showing, indicating an apparent lack of willingness to compete on pricing. Perhaps things will change when they introduce their ePub store, but for now, if you have a Sony Reader, you're much more likely to find better prices for Sony ebooks at stores like Lulu, Diesel, eBookMall and even publisher sites like HarperCollins, all of which had lower prices than Sony's eBook Store on hundreds of Adobe Digital Editions books. Sony beat everyone else's prices on only 18 ebooks (that's right, eighteen out of over eleven thousand) and matched the lowest price on only 423. The only saving grace for Sony seems to be their reader's ability to read DRM content purchased from other ebook stores, unlike the Kindle which can only read Amazon's DRM.

Some other stats we found interesting:

There were only 398 free ebooks in the top 11,604. Looking at the lowest available prices for all titles, the average price was $6.88, and the median was $6.39.
The average ebook price at the big three: $6.05 at Amazon, $7.96 at B&N, and $8.77 at Sony.
Lulu, who only recently began selling ePubs in their ebook store, emerged as a surprise third-place winner. They matched the lowest price on 2,251 ebooks and beat everyone else on another 181.
Fictionwise, one of the oldest independent ebook retailers until recently (when they were acquired by Barnes & Noble) were nowhere near as competitive, with lower prices on less than 50 ebooks. They do have club rebates, but to keep things simple, we did not consider those prices for this analysis.
The one line version of everything above: when it comes to ebook pricing, Amazon is currently the clear winner, Barnes & Noble is a distant second, but Sony doesn't even seem to be trying. The landscape will continue to change as newer ebook vendors like Lulu (and Google) attempt to lure readers away from established players, and retailers and publishers experiment with new pricing models. It will be interesting to see how the Nook performs in comparison to the Kindle, and if Sony's Daily Edition can shake things up in 2010. We will continue to follow ebook market trends on this blog, and would love to hear your comments and questions about ebook pricing via email or in the comments below. Stay tuned, and Happy eReading!

Last edited by anurag; 12-02-2009 at 04:54 PM. Reason: updated to reflect blog update
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Old 12-01-2009, 12:39 PM   #2
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I do love Amazon and my Kindles. If B&N didn't have brick and mortar stores to support, they might be able to be more competitive.

I don't have a lot of experience with B&N but Amazon's Customer Service has been a big plus for me as well.
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Old 12-01-2009, 12:59 PM   #3
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Awesome article! This is something most of us already suspected, but having the hard numbers confirms it thanks!

I personally find myself shopping less and less with Fictionwise and BoB they seem to have given up being competitive. Again your study confirmed what I had been seeing FW prices have risen. Also what use to make FW so attractive was their 50%/75%/100% rebates which really translate to 25%/37%/50%. Now their best so far was 45%(21%) which is a base discount for Amazon and other eBook retailers.

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Old 12-01-2009, 01:01 PM   #4
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I'd like to see this study with the best sellers excluded. I know both Amazon and B&N cap best sellers at $9.99 I'd bet the "price match" between amazon and B&N would be much different.
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Old 12-01-2009, 01:18 PM   #5
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I'd like to see this study with the best sellers excluded. I know both Amazon and B&N cap best sellers at $9.99 I'd bet the "price match" between amazon and B&N would be much different.
=X=, the numbers weren't very different after removing all ebooks with sales ranks below 100. Here's the new graph:

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Old 12-01-2009, 01:25 PM   #6
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I don't have a lot of experience with B&N but Amazon's Customer Service has been a big plus for me as well.
Daffy, one of the reasons I stopped buying from Amazon years ago was my experience with poor customer service. OTOH, up until the nook, B&N's customer service for me has been exceptional; now it is the pits. I guess it just depends on who you get, when you get them, and what the problem is.

Last edited by rhadin; 12-01-2009 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 12-01-2009, 01:44 PM   #7
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Awesome article! This is something most of us already suspected, but having the hard numbers confirms it thanks!

I personally find myself shopping less and less with Fictionwise and BoB they seem to have given up being competitive. Again your study confirmed what I had been seeing FW prices have risen. Also what use to make FW so attractive was their 50%/75%/100% rebates which really translate to 25%/37%/50%. Now their best so far was 45%(21%) which is a base discount for Amazon and other eBook retailers.

=X=
Fictionwise is hard to compare using this method. All their discounts are sales (or membership) which don't show up. They don't have the luxury of DRM to drive sales, so they have to use rewards.

Personally, I have saved about 55% at FW using the sales wisely.
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Old 12-01-2009, 02:05 PM   #8
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=X=, the numbers weren't very different after removing all ebooks with sales ranks below 100.
Wow, okay this surprised me. My meager book searches would always show Amazon was always cheaper, except where B&N price matched Amazon. Obviously that was not the case.

Again thank you.



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Daffy, one of the reasons I stopped buying from Amazon years ago was my experience with poor customer service. OTOH, up until the nook, B&N's customer service for me has been exceptional; now it is the pits. I guess it just depends on who you get, when you get them, and what the problem is.
That does have something to do with it, but companies also go through cycles sometimes due it's due to cooperate's decision to neglect CS or they decided to outsource CS, etc...

There was a time when Verizion has terrible customer service back in 2001 , now they have excellent CS.

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Old 12-01-2009, 02:11 PM   #9
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There was a time when Verizion has terrible customer service back in 2001 , now they have excellent CS.

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I'm having issues with Verizon's home service today. And Chase bank is ticking me off as well (I miss WAMU).
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Old 12-01-2009, 02:18 PM   #10
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Fictionwise is hard to compare using this method. All their discounts are sales (or membership) which don't show up. They don't have the luxury of DRM to drive sales, so they have to use rewards.
I'm not following you they own the eReader DRM. And they do use it to drive sales by discounting 5% when you chose that format.

I agree with you last year FW was excellent, and I saved lots of money back when they had their 50%,100% rebates. But they don't hold those specials anymore

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Personally, I have saved about 55% at FW using the sales wisely.
Not this year you didn't, unless FW had a 100% rebate sale I did not hear about or you exclusively buy their 100% books.

While most of my books where purchased using FW and using their BW club plus their sales last year, it was a hassle. In the end the savings are close to what you would save at Amazon, BUT unlike FW you wouldn't have to binge spend $100-200 dollars over a weekend just to get the savings with Amazon the books are always discounted and one can moderate their spending.

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Old 12-01-2009, 02:22 PM   #11
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I'm having issues with Verizon's home service today. And Chase bank is ticking me off as well (I miss WAMU).
Could be I'm referring to Verizon Wireless, I think their Home service is a different entity.

I left WAMU because of their terrible service, my wife stayed with them. Right now she is having serious problems with Case as well. Considering I thought WAMU was bad I feel for you and my wife

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Old 12-01-2009, 04:14 PM   #12
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I do love Amazon and my Kindles. If B&N didn't have brick and mortar stores to support, they might be able to be more competitive.

I don't have a lot of experience with B&N but Amazon's Customer Service has been a big plus for me as well.
Yes I wonder exactly how many assurances B&N have had to give it's retail outlets about pricing and not undercutting paperbacks 'too' heavily?

Amazon just slashes prices on bestsellers pretty harshly. Great if you like bestsellers, but sometimes for more obscure books you pay a lot at Amazon or they just don't stock it.
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Old 12-01-2009, 06:43 PM   #13
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I'm having issues with Verizon's home service today. And Chase bank is ticking me off as well (I miss WAMU).
I have Verizon FiOS for home telephone, Internet, and TV, and service has been great. Perhaps it is location. Here in New York the regulators have been all over Verizon the past few years about taking care of customers.

As for banking, I only use the local little bank. In fact, mine called me 2 weeks ago and suggested I look at refinancing my mortgage (which was with them) because I could save 3.5%. We signed the papers today.
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Old 12-01-2009, 10:55 PM   #14
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Thanks for doing a bunch of hard work, anurag & co.

I'm pretty well convinced of the accuracy of the claim, due to the large volume of titles used in the comparison. I am a little surprised though, since Bezos has stated publicly that they don't use their ebooks to drive Kindle device sales; i.e. their goal is to earn a profit off of the actual ebooks. Not really sure how lower prices accomplishes that, unless they're just taking a short-term hit in order to gain long-term dominance....
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Old 12-01-2009, 11:45 PM   #15
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Thanks for doing a bunch of hard work, anurag & co.

I'm pretty well convinced of the accuracy of the claim, due to the large volume of titles used in the comparison. I am a little surprised though, since Bezos has stated publicly that they don't use their ebooks to drive Kindle device sales; i.e. their goal is to earn a profit off of the actual ebooks. Not really sure how lower prices accomplishes that, unless they're just taking a short-term hit in order to gain long-term dominance....
You know it might be that other eBook retailers are pricing their books far above the equilibrium price. If Amazon is closer to it they will take less per book, sure, but the increase in volume will more than make up for it.
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