Ebooknewser has pointed out one of the unmentioned problems with Google’s much-vaunted plan to allow indie bookstores to “resell” e-books on their websites: price variability. Whereas Google is matching Amazon on pricing, including $9.99 for many e-books, indie stores may have to charge higher rates in order to make a profit.

For example, for the title The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:

Google sells the eBook for $9.99, down from the list price of $26.00. Bay area independent bookstore Alibris has the eBook listed at $16.90. And Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore based in Washington DC, is selling the eBook for $18.20.

This would seem to reduce the benefit to the bookstores—given that consumers have already rebelled at Amazon having to raise its prices over $9.99, it seems a little like wishful thinking for independent bookstores to be able to sell for that much. Ebooknewser’s readers tend to agree.

But then, if Google doesn’t provide the books to its resellers at a discount such that they can still make a profit by selling at Amazon price, the retailers pretty much have to raise the price to make money. That’s the way having middlemen works. And price-conscious consumers will still look for the very lowest price.

(For that matter, how can the bookstores raise their prices on these books? I thought agency pricing was supposed to prevent that?)


  1. Crown Publishing Group is a division of Random House so no surprise there as both Amazon and Google are selling Skloot’s book below cost. As I mentioned before Indies will suffer on non agency titles.

    Not that there is nothing they can do about it. They will just have to try and entice people eg something similar to what Fictionwise used to offer on their Buywise club. No doubt there are other creative ideas that will be tried.

    It will be interesting to see if any of the Indies can translate their skills at selling pbooks to digital.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.