nook vs amazonDuring the days covered by the agency pricing settlement, I was buying most of my books from Barnes & Noble because a Nook Color was my primary reading device. Price differences between Nook and Amazon were minimal to non-existent on most of the books I wanted to buy.

Consequently, I received a much larger ebook settlement credit for Nook than for Amazon, and I decided this would be a good time to pick up some of the books on my Wishlist. I mostly wishlist Big Five books and track them in eReader IQ, hoping for a price drop, so most of the titles are not indie-published.

I had a rough idea of how many books my $31 credit should buy me. And then I started looking them up on Barnes & Noble. Surprise! My credit wasn’t going to go nearly as far as I thought. Here are a few examples:

[easyazon-link asin=”0440244382″ locale=”us”]The Cleaner[/easyazon-link] by Brett Battles: Amazon: $6.83. Nook: $7.99

[easyazon-link asin=”B000OZ0NXU” locale=”us”]The Lost Fleet: Dauntless[/easyazon-link] by Jack Campbell: Amazon: $6.83. Nook: $7.99

[easyazon-link asin=”0449214206″ locale=”us”]The Covenant[/easyazon-link] by James Michener: Amazon: $7.99. Nook: $9.99

[easyazon-link asin=”B008YSCCWY” locale=”us”]Compelling Evidence[/easyazon-link] by Steve Martini: Amazon: $5.99. Nook: $7.99

I could go on, but you get the idea. The books I was hoping to buy ranged from 15-25% more on Nook. Leave aside the price vs value question. The Covenant is 2-3 times longer than the average book I read, so even $9.99 is a good value. However, it galls to pay that price when I could get it for less elsewhere and lose no convenience in so doing. (I have both a Kindle and a Nook, so either way the books are easy to access and read.)

I hadn’t price shopped between the two sites in a while, and I hadn’t realized the price difference had grown so large. No wonder Nook is having problems. Their hardware is out of date, and their prices are quite a bit higher. I’ll use my credit, but it won’t bring me back permanently to their store.


  1. If you look at Kobo, you will see that all the books you mention have the same price as at B&N. It is not B&N that is the exception, but Amazon.
    Only Amazon (because they earn a lot of money selling other stuff) can afford to sell popular books at break-even prices, or even at a loss.
    If you want other bookstores like Amazon and Kobo to survive, you will have to allow them to sell their books at a small profit.

    • @Geert, not always. I’ve seen books more expensive at Kobo than B&N and sometimes less. For example, right now Joyland (Stephen King’s new book) is $7.99 at B&N and $6.59 at both Kobo and Amazon.

      And why is it incumbent upon me as a reader to pay more to support another company’s business model?

      Plus, under the terms of the agency pricing settlement, Amazon can’t sell books from the Big 5 at an overall loss. They can on individual titles, yes, but overall, per publisher, they have to sell at a profit. B&N is under the same terms. Not sure where Kobo stands since they’ve currently managed a stay on the settlement terms.

  2. It has long been a matter of record that Nook operating costs are higher than Amazon’s. Adobe Tax, not owning the backrnd servers, lower volumes, etc.
    During the conspiracy trial it was clearly reported by the feds that after looking at Amazon’s books they found they have never lost money selling ebooks. They certainly make tons of it off indie titles and their 30%+ distribution fees and those titles make a substantial part of Kindle’s volume.

    This is pretty obviously not an Amazon issue but a Nook issue about how they manage and mismanage their business. We may learn more as the SEC investigation and class action suit on Nook bookkeeping progress.

  3. I have been surprised at what titles they have discounted on occasion to match Amazon. So, I still find it worth it to check with them as well because I prefer ePub. But they’ve always been high. Same with the defunct Sony Reader Store. It just makes zero sense to pay more when Amazon has it cheaper than everybody else.

  4. …plus, Amazon has the deeper catalog, better policies, better features and promotions, and better ebookstore.
    Everybody focuses on price and deprecates all the other ways they are better for the customer.

  5. Contrary to what Mr. Torres decide to FUD up top, BN’s prices have exactly nothing to do with the SEC probe (which is about a restatement of BN’s previous quarterly financial results when they moved to a new accounting firm and how financials were allocated when the company split NOOK off – standard procedure for any such restatements).

    BN’s prices are higher because they have higher marginal costs. Those bookstores aren’t free. There are large costs that BN has to cover, including (but not limited to) rent, payroll, shipping, utilities, property taxes, and marketing. Yes, you may have to sometimes pay a little more for a book from BN, but you are supporting a company that employs people in your local area, pays local taxes, and doesn’t feel the need to have ultra-draconian policies on their files and authors.

    You have to make the choice of whether that dollar is worth it. If all you care about is ultimate price, shop with Amazon (and Wal Mart). But don’t turn around and complain about the death of bookstores and the outsourcing of American manufacturing if that’s your choice – if you want the domestic and local economy to prosper you have to be willing to pay a little extra.

    Also, RE: Amazon loss-leading – The DOJ never stated that Amazon didn’t loss-lead. Bezos himself gave an interview with Wired in 2010 where he flat out stated that the $9.99 bestseller was sold below costs. All the DOJ said (assisted in their investigation with the help of a law firm that shares a building with Amazon’s headquarters, because that’s not a COI) was that Amazon’s overall ebook division *including hardware* was profitable.

  6. I think it’s rich that flyingtoastr is supporting B&N as the struggling, warm fuzzy, mom-and-apple-pie choice when not so very long ago B&N was the “villain” Amazon is now for killing off all the local mom-and-pop bookstores with its chain-bookstore economy-of-scale pricing. (There was even a movie made about this. You’ve Got Mail.)

    Someday, when someone comes up with the newest big thing that knocks Amazon out of the saddle, Amazon will be the struggling, warm fuzzy, mom-and-apple-pie choice.

    And so it goes.