The Amazon Kindle Discussion Forum has not been a happy place lately. Higher prices, a side effect of the arrival of the iPad, dominate the discussion. In fact, the forum's been marked by a Tea Party atmosphere, with complaints, indignation, and boycott plans. Whether consumers are willing to pay the higher prices remains to be seen.
To get an idea about some specific prices, I looked at the Kindle price and availability as of this writing for each of the five top hardcover fiction and nonfiction books on the April 18 print copy of the The New York Times best-seller list. Neither the top fiction book ("Changes" by Jim Butcher) nor the top non-fiction book ("The Big Short" by Michael Lewis" -- see recent post on Read Street) is available on the Kindle at this time for U. S. customers. Huh? This is surprising, especially given the fact that the Association of American Publishers has estimated that, while book sales fell by 1.8% in 2009, e-book sales were up last year by 176.6%. Yikes! That publishers cannot develop a profitable business model to make top-selling books available to e-book users in a timely way is a sad commentary on the state of the industry. I just hope that, in a year or two, one or more of the publishers won't be asking for a bailout from taxpayers.
Regarding Kindle prices for the other eight bestsellers, five of them are priced at $9.99, traditionally the Amazon price for most bestsellers. "The Bridge" by David Remnick is $14.82; "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" by Chelsea Handler is $12.99; "A River in the Sky" by Elizabeth Peters is $12.99.
Most buyers of e-books agree that the Kindle version should not be priced higher than the lowest-priced DTB (dead tree book) version. They balk at the fact that one can buy, for example, the mass market paperback version of M. C. Beaton's "Death of a Witch" for $6.99, while the Kindle version is priced at $11.99. A legitimate complaint, since costs like distribution, inventory and storage are so much lower for e-books. Most e-book users are horrified at the thought of "subsidizing" print books. One of the publishers did say that paperbacks are at times published by a company other than the one that published the hardback and Kindle versions, so that may explain some pricing that seems inconsistent. To be fair, I must also point out that there are some forum users who seem unperturbed by the new pricing schemes and are very quick to defend the publishers on a number of issues.
On a positive note, there have also been some terrific bargains and freebies offered on the Kindle this month. For example, about two weeks ago, for a brief time, 10 of the 13 books by Lemony Snicket ("A Series of Unfortunate Events") were free. As of this writing, "The Dark Tide" (with bonus material) by Andrew Gross is free. Two short story collections are bargain priced: "Hardly Knew Her" by Laura Lippman is $.99; and "The Price of Love and Other Stories" by Peter Robinson is $1.99. An added attraction of all these books is that the text-to-speech feature is enabled.
Like many other Kindle users, I downloaded a ton of books before the iPad invasion. Until prices stabilize, I'll be buying very little but making good use of Jungle-Search to find bargains on the Kindle. And I don't think I'll be alone!