images12[1] With the launch of its UK e-book store, the controversy over Amazon’s pricing has finally jumped the Atlantic. The Bookseller reports that Amazon has priced a number of books at less than £3 ($4.67 at current exchange rates), sparking a price war in which retailer W.H. Smith dropped its own e-book prices drastically, too.

[An unnamed] senior publisher attacked the pricing strategies of W H Smith and Amazon. He said: "It’s absolutely absurd to devalue our product but I’m not surprised because our industry is populated by nincompoops."

This publisher thinks that the low pricing might actually make the agency model less attractive to publishers, since the publishers are still getting paid wholesale rates no matter how low Amazon or Smith set the retail prices. However, I’m not so sure about this—after all, wasn’t that also the prevailing school of thought in America, too before Macmillan called Amazon out early this year?

And other publishers claimed they did not expect the low prices to set future expectations. Again, I wonder where these people have been while American publishers and authors have been scrambling to raise prices and then accusing unhappy consumers of having an “astonishing […] sense of entitlement” when they protest. It seems pretty clear some expectations were set over here.

I find it interesting that Amazon is going so low. £3, the equivalent of $4.67, is less than half the $9.99 price that got Amazon into so much trouble over here—even more unusual given that prices tend to be higher in general in the UK. It’s no wonder that UK publishers are going ballistic.


  1. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are trying to avoid the problems they had here and to establish, once and for all, the $9.99 price point universally. For example if the UK publishers force Amazon to go as far as to *double* the price, it would out the price at…about $9.99 🙂

  2. I can quickly think of a couple dozen ebooks I would buy, immediately, if I could get them at UK prices. At US prices, however, I’m going to the library instead and will likely no longer desire the ebook versions when (or more likely *if*) they ever become affordable for me here. I still have a huge backlog of public domain ebooks to read when I travel, so publishers will only get my money with a reasonably priced impulse buy. I don’t see much of that happening anytime soon.

  3. Katrina, I am also reading a good many books this summer from the library because of the Kindle book prices, especially Penguin, and I seem to be addicted to Penguin authors unfortunately. Have bought zero Penguin books since their hate war against e-book readers began but will succumb to Fall of Giants which is over 1000 pages. I don’t want to deal with the weight and bulk of that. Am sitting on about $220 in Amazon gift certificates from my birthday but except for the above, will only buy those I consider reasonably priced.

  4. Penguin is unbelievable. The price for Fall of Giants is 19.99. Kindle users’ reactions are pretty negative — check out the user tags on the preorder screen.

    Hate war is right. They have two Sharon Penman books priced at 19.99, and one of them is years old. Macmillan has her other books at 9.99. I wrote Penguin an e-mail about the Penman books, laying out the reasons why I won’t be buying the e-books to go with my used DTBs. All I ever heard from them was an e-mail that they were forwarding my e-mail to the marketing department. I have a price watch on the Penman books, but so far they haven’t budged.

  5. Ha, ha, Mary, Fall of Giants is the kind of book I *love* to read in hardcopy! I adore the really big weighty ones, curled up on the couch with a cup of tea. I’m already in line for it at the library.

    I admire you for sticking to your guns on your price limits. Lots of readers, consistently doing just that, will eventually make an impression, I hope.

  6. lol@”populated by nincompoops”

    $19 is to much for an eBook; its not made of cellulose product, nor did it require printing or shipping. Even Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in March that the majority of their books sell below $10 and that the would likely continue to make up the majority of sales. We’ve been selling at $6.99 for each titles for over a year, down from $8.99 in 2008. Raising the prices is a rather kamikaze move these days; I expect the next release of AAP sales stats on unit sales will reflect a marked decline in ebooks sales.

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