Kindle books priced higher than hardcovers

Faith Merino · October 5, 2010 · Short URL:

For the first time, two e-books are priced higher than hardcovers on

Thought you had life all figured out?  Think again!  E-books now cost more than hardcovers on Amazon!  That’s right.  Now the only reason to buy an e-reader is the convenience of not having to lick your fingers to turn a page.

For the first time, two e-books have been priced higher on Amazon than their hardcover counterparts, according to The New York Times, which broke the story Tuesday morning.

Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” was published last week and priced on Amazon at $19.39 for the hardcover version.  The Kindle version, however, was priced at $19.99.  Similarly, James Patterson’s recent book, “Don’t Blink,” was priced at $14.00 for the hardcover version and $14.99 for the Kindle version.

Not surprisingly, readers are angry.

Scanning through the list of comments on Follett’s “Fall of Giants” Amazon page, these are the titles of the customer reviews that came up:

“Lower the price”

“PRICE is the question?”

“Goodbye to the publishing industry”


“A very interesting read!”

Obviously, the last guy didn’t know what was going on.

Apparently, the discrepancy in the prices goes back to a deal recently made between publishers and Amazon that lets publishers set their own prices for e-books while Amazon continues to discount the list price on hardcovers.  The move came after publishers had been complaining for months that Amazon was charging too little for e-books. 

In an attempt to spur mainstream adoption of its e-reader, the Kindle, (and to fend off the growing number of competitors in the e-reader, digital book, and tablet market) Amazon reduced the e-reader price by more than half and established a policy of capping off e-book prices at $9.99, which publishers criticized, arguing that the low prices of e-books would cannibalize sales of higher priced hardcover books. 

In February, the book publisher Macmillan demanded that Amazon agree to charge customers between $12.99 and $14.99 for e-books while the Hachette Book Group announced that it would be transitioning to an “agency model” for the sale of its e-books to protect its prices.  CEO of Hachette, David Young, told Reuters in February: “There are many advantages to the agency model, for our authors, retailers, consumers, and publishers. It allows Hachette to make pricing decisions that are rational and reflect the value of our authors' works.”  He added that without investment in authors, “our literary culture will suffer.”

I love when publishers pull the “literary culture” card.

Amazon agreed to the terms of Macmillans’ demands and began charging $12.99 and $14.99 for e-books in February, much to the dismay of readers.  But this is the first time that an e-book has been priced higher than a hardcover.

“Setting a price for a Kindle book that is higher than its print counterpart makes no sense,” said Russ Grandinetti, the vice president of Kindle content for Amazon, to the New York Times. “It’s bad for readers and authors, and is illogical given the cost savings of digital. We’ve seen publishers do this in a few cases, and we’ve been urging them to stop.”

How will sales be affected?

But will it hurt sales?  Despite the deluge of customer complaints (Patterson’s and Follett’s books have both received two stars from readers, despite a number of customers praising the actual content of the novels), sales still appear to be strong.  Penguin and the Hachette Book Group could not be reached for comment, but Marilyn Ducksworth, a spokesperson for Penguin, told the New York Times that Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” was selling as predicted: “It’s a long and wonderful book, of which we have sold over 20,000 e-books in the last seven days.”

The book publishing industry won't be able to stave off the rising tide of demand for lower priced e-books for long. The textbook publishing industry is meeting the demand with several new businesses like Kno and Inkling developing to provide cheap digital textbooks. James Patterson and Ken Follett will have to face the music sooner or later. 

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