Harper Collins’ Strange Kindle Book Pricing

Craig Newmark mentioned a new book his blog that sounded interesting to me (Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.-How the Working Poor Became Big Business) so I clicked over to Amazon to pick it up.

It’s available for the Kindle, so I figured that would be the way to go since I can sync it into my iPod Touch in around one minute and read it when I find the time.

But then I stopped. Strangely, the book was priced at $12.99 rather than the common new-release price of $9.99 found for most books on Amazon.

Harper Collins Kindle Book Pricing

Amazon explains why this is right next to the price. The book’s publisher has told Amazon how much Amazon must charge for the Kindle version of the book in order to sell it on their site. While Amazon is perfectly willing to sell this book for $9.99, Harper Collins won’t let them.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about who the publishers are behind the books I read. Harper Collins is a huge publisher, so I’ve likely read a lot of books that they’ve published over time, but I’ve never found myself thinking “Hey, that book is published by Harper Collins, so I’m going to be sure to check that out.” But now I find myself thinking, “Hey, Harper Collins is trying to charge me $3 more for their bits than other publishers charge for their bits. How lame.” I’ve gone from Harper Collins neutral to Harper Collins negative.

Harper Collins Kindle Prices vs Print

Now, Harper Collins could probably make the case that this book is actually worth $12.99 in Kindle form since most people who’re interested in reading it on a Kindle will probably still buy it. However, take a look at the price comparisons above. It’s actually cheaper to buy a brand new hardcover version of this book that has to be printed, physically transported to a warehouse, stored, etc. than the Kindle digital format.

But what about shipping? Yes, it would be slightly more expensive or me to buy and have a printed version of this book delivered to me than to buy the Kindle version. And I’d have to wait a couple days for it to arrive. However, I could resell the print version or give it to a friend once I’m done, so the lifetime cost of the hardcover book is significantly cheaper for me than the Kindle version.

In the end, I didn’t buy the book. Sorry, Gary Rivlin, but your publisher interfered with our ability to do business. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away.

3 thoughts on “Harper Collins’ Strange Kindle Book Pricing”

  1. In Canada, depending exactly what went down between the publisher and Amazon, this could be considered an abuse of market dominance in the form of retail price maintenance; something for our Competition Bureau to investigate.

    Am I correct to assume your FTC has similar rules?

  2. Gary, thanks for the comment. I caught your interview with Terry Gross as a podcast this morning. Great stuff.

    @Cameron, I’m not sure why wholesalers can enforce retail price points onto retailers like this, although I don’t think this case is entirely unique. For example, some shoe companies have had policies on whether brick and mortar retailers can sell certain brands online.

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