All the major news sites in the last couple of days have carried the story that Amazon has just bumped its minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping for non-Prime customers. It used to be just $25, then it rose to $35. Now it’s a $49 minimum, or just $25 worth of books—and any order with $25 worth of books included will ship free even if it doesn’t otherwise reach $49.
It makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it. Shipping is one of Amazon’s biggest expenses—a whopping $1.8 billion in 2015, up 37% from the year before—and since Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping, and are considerably more frequent customers than non-Prime subscribers, it kind of makes sense. Amazon’s already bumped the price of Prime membership to $99, and now it’s passing on a share of the expense to non-Prime subscribers, too. (Small wonder Amazon is looking at going into the air cargo business. As much money as it spends on shipping, it might be considerably cheaper for the company to do it itself.)
Given how many Prime subscribers Amazon has by now, it’s probably not too worried it might lose that much revenue from non-subscribers—especially since at least some of them will be moved to upgrade to Prime membership rather than continue having to play games with their order totals.
Meanwhile, this is a potent reminder of one of the big advantages that e-books have over paper books—you don’t have to order $25 worth of them at a time to get “free shipping”!