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Ebook price wars start anew in the U.K. When are super-low prices coming to the U.S.?

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It’s been a week of book price wars: FIrst, Overstock (s OSTK) promised to sell new hardcovers cheaper than Amazon — and Amazon quickly matched Overstock’s prices. Across the Atlantic, consumers are getting even better deals on new ebooks: Barnes & Noble’s Nook (s BKS) is running a “Hot Summer Deals” promotion that sells some new titles for just £0.99 (USD $1.51). And Amazon U.K. is matching those prices, too.

Nook U.K.’s promotion includes 114 titles, ranging in price from £0.30 to £9.99. Thirty-three of the ebooks are £0.99, including Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic, Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother and David Baldacci’s The Hit. Amazon is matching Kindle prices on most of those but, as The Bookseller notes, not all of them.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen super-low prices on new ebooks in the U.K.: Sony (s SNE) ran a promotion for nearly a year that sold ebooks for just £0.20. Following big publishers’ settlements with the U.S. and U.K. governments, retailers are free to discount ebooks as much as they want, though publishers can negotiate contracts that require a retailer not to sell the publisher’s entire list at a loss. Many people — including me — expected U.S. retailers, especially Amazon, to start discounting large groups of ebooks steeply right away. So far, though, it hasn’t happened. This has led some in the industry to think that Amazon is biding its time, perhaps waiting for the holiday season to slash ebook prices to lows like the ones we’re seeing in the U.K.

3 Responses to “Ebook price wars start anew in the U.K. When are super-low prices coming to the U.S.?”

  1. David Thomas

    I don’t want to start a comment war here, I’m just curious why a bargain basement price on e-books is perceived as a desirable goal? Consider: there is no evidence that an e-book price of < $2 is beneficial to all sales of books at that price, the revenue generated is not on average sustainable for the creator, producer, or vendor (outliers are few), and a coffee product sold at nearly $5 is deemed more valuable for the consumer. Is crafted content really that worthless, or is it that we pay a lot for the device and have come to expect a deep bargain on items to fill the device?

    • Valentine North

      Yes and no.
      The low price does hurt the author and publisher, but they have a really huge market now, with instant delivery anywhere in the world. And there’s no need for reprinting, so, if the book is the kind that will be read 5 years from now, it will still bring profit.

      I don’t have the numbers, only the publishers do, but if they’re going this low, then it must be possible.