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Summary:

The opening of the Borders e-book store completes the collection of big booksellers now selling e-books. Consumers have a choice for purchasing e-books, so it makes sense to do a little comparison shopping to see which stores have the most bestsellers in stock.

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The opening of the Borders e-book store completes the collection of big booksellers now selling e-books. Amazon has been selling them since launching the Kindle reader, Apple opened the iBookstore with the launch of the iPad and Barnes & Noble has been selling digital books for a while. Consumers now have a pretty good choice for purchasing e-books, and since these stores have apps on various device platforms — meaning content is not tied to a single device — it is prudent to do a little comparison shopping to see which store has the best book availability.

Many e-book readers are buying fiction, so the logical place to start our digital window shopping is the New York Times Bestseller list. We took the top ten books on today’s hardcover list and checked availability and pricing with the four booksellers.

Sadly, price checking shows that publisher’s agency pricing is firmly in place, with all four retailers selling all books on the list for the same price. Books falling under the agency pricing, which covers new releases, have the prices fixed by the publisher. Every book on the NYT bestsellers list is either $9.99 or $12.99 as a result. The only variable was that some stores did not have every book on the list available. The two newest stores, Borders and iBookstore, were each missing four of the ten books on the list, although each was missing different titles. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble had all ten of the books on the list.

This exercise demonstrates that if you read mostly recently released novels then you can shop at any of these stores as far as pricing goes. While each of the stores has its own electronic reader, all of them have reader apps for smartphones that enable the use of this content. For example — Amazon’s content can be used on many different devices, as in addition to reading books on the Kindle, there is a Kindle app for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, PC and Macs. If you have one of these devices you can likely use readers from multiple stores.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Irrational Exuberance Over E-Books?

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  1. Most of the books missing from the iBookstore are from Random House. RH is the only major publisher NOT on board with the agency model, and Apple won’t sell books outside of it. Makes for an interesting standoff, since RH is significantly bigger than anyone else.

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  2. Interesting seeing the agency model in effect here. As Carly mentioned every best seller is $12.99 on iBooks while a couple still have some $9.99 books left. I imagine Kobo is priced the same as Borders since Borders is powered by Kobo, right?

    For me as a Nook and Sony Reader owner it comes down to being able to take my content from my phone or iPad over to a dedicated ebook reader that is still best for extended periods of reading. I can do this with EPUB content from Kobo/Borders and the Sony Reader store. I think I will be sticking with Kobo for now due to the cross platform smartphone, iPad, Nook, and Sony Reader support as long as the prices are all now pretty standard. Kobo does still give me coupons and deals every once in a while too.

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    1. Intersting.
      Does that mean that I can read my Sony Reader-store bought e-pub books on other devices like the iPad?

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      1. Not easily…sony-bought epubs are covered with Adobe DRM, which the iPad only supports through the Kobo app (which has no ability to load outside books) and an app called txtr (which does, but I believe you have to upload the book through their site to download it into your ipad.

        There are ways to strip drm, but the trick there is staying ahead of adobe’s attempts to shut that down. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

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  3. I’m happy with Amazon on my end even if it’s going to cost a bit more. It’s simply because I can catch up on any book on any device because the Amazon app syncs and keeps track of which page I am at.

    Today for example, my iPad batt went flat and I was able to read my favourite book and pick up where I left off on my Nexus One’s Kindle app.

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    1. As an iPad owner and long time Amazon customer, I have to agree with you. The Kindle app is available on every platform (Android, Mac OS X, Windows, iPhone, iPad) and the Amazon book catalog is large. Why use anything else?

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  4. Can you say Price Fixing ?

    Do these pubs have anti-trust exemptions or what ?

    Whatabout unfair trading practices (i.e. collusion) ?

    Something smells fishy in Denmark (errrr I mean New York).

    Are these companies influenced by the Mafia’s syndicated crime organization ?

    Inquiry minds wanna know the answers to these questions.

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  5. I guess the big issue is how many of us are going to bother shopping in a bunch of different stores?

    I don’t see much of a reason to shop around if everyone has the same price (most of the time) and I think that that will hurt the new comers. (yes Borders, good luck in this space).

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  6. Be sure to thank Steve Jobs for the pricing. Amazon tried to break the model that resulted in the pricing that you see above, and Steve came along and messed it all up.

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    1. The economic analyses I’ve read about ebook pricing agree that Amazon was losing money on $9.99 ebooks, in an attempt to drive market share. That’s not a sustainable situation – prices were bound to go up eventually. It seems disingenuous to blame this on Steve Jobs.

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      1. It’s easier to blame Steve Jobs than the publishers-all that built in Apple-hate.

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      2. @Se7en: Personally, I think people should be blaming Amazon, who set an unrealistic precedent for ebook pricing.

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      3. If you believe the rationalisation behind those analyses then book stores lose money on ALL paperbacks, since the costs are higher (real printing on paper, shipping and unsold/returned to publisher books) and paperbacks typically sell at that price point.

        There is money at 9.99, especially if you have volume to amortise the servers and distribution infrastructure across and also factor in that you need a data centre in a low rent district rather than expensive stores filled with employees in high traffic neighbourhoods.

        The reality is that publishers are clinging to the fantasy of the old book store model and the control they once had. The smart publishers (Baen) are going to do well and the delusional ones who think ebooks are going to either go away or remain a secondary market that can be treated with contempt (Macmillan of the time delayed $18 ebooks) are going to get buried.

        The only think that might go away is many brick and mortar bookstores. Similar to what is happening with Blockbuster.

        Plus there is the reality of the underground market. You can already find pretty much any ebook online. If the legal copies are priced too high, more people will turn to the pirate versions. If the publishers refuse to release ebook versions, pirate scan will be done. The last Harry Potter showed up with DAYS of the hard cover release.

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  7. Check out inkmesh.com — it will compare prices of books among all the e-book sellers (including those not on the best seller list) as well as provide lists of free books for the major platforms.

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