Kindle Store eBook Prices Are Rising … Or Are They?

by Steve Windwalker

October 5, 2015

There has been a steady drumbeat of complaints lately that Kindle Store prices are going up, up and away now that several major publishers have written “agency model pricing” into their latest ebook contracts with Amazon.

Is it really the case? Well, yes and no.

First, let’s take a look at a positively eerie case of the ebook price planets being in alignment. The chart below shows a price breakdown of the Top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle store. You can see that 27% of the Top 100 were priced under $3;  55% were priced between $3 and $9.99; and 18% were priced at $10 and up:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.25.46 PM

Swell, you say, but when was this? And it’s the answer to that question that’s kind of amazing, because the above chart is an exact reflection of the price breakdown on Kindle bestsellers for three very different date ranges:

  • a snapshot of the Top 100 bestsellers on January 18, 2013;
  • a snapshot of the Top 100 bestsellers this past weekend, on October 4, 2015; and
  • Amazon’s calendar year list of the Top 100 bestsellers cumulatively from January 1, 2015 through October 4, 2015.

How can this possibly be? Well, we all know that figures lie and liars figure, so let’s put aside the YTD figures for now and take a closer look at the two single-day snapshots, using this comparative analysis from BookGorilla. Inside those aggregate figures, there are some fascinating trends:

  • There have been significant increases at both extremes of the pricing spectrum. On the low end, the number of 99-cent bestsellers increased from 15% to 24%. At the high end, the number of bestsellers priced at $13 and up has increased from 5% to 14%.
  • The clearest indication that the big publishers are raising their prices precipitously comes when one compares that increase at $13 and up with a dramatic change over the same period in the number of bestsellers priced from $9.99 to $12.99. 22% of the Top 100 bestsellers were in that price range back in January 2013, but only 6% fell in that range this weekend. Most eye-popping is the fact that, as of October 4, 2015, none of the books in the Top 100 bestsellers were priced at $9.99, which not so long ago was Amazon’s preferred price for bestsellers and new releases on Kindle.

One might conclude, therefore, that with the latest round of big publisher contracts, the publishers have soundly defeated Amazon.

But one would be wrong.

That’s where our most significant statistical comparison comes in:

In our January 2013 analysis, 58% of the Top 50 bestsellers were published by the big traditional publishers, and that figure has since declined to 38%. Conversely, 42% of the Top 50 bestsellers were published by indie authors or by Amazon’s own publishing imprints in January 2013, compared with 62% this past weekend.

In other words, what the big publishers have won in their latest round of contract “victories” over Amazon is the right to price themselves right off the bestseller list.  

And just in case you think that all of the least expensive books are self-published dreck, we’ll get into that in greater detail in the future, but the somewhat tautological truth is that these bestselling non-traditional titles are very popular, well-written books by authors with huge followings, including many who have left traditional publishers to go indie and others who have signed contracts and hit the bestseller lists with Amazon’s ever-expanding group of successful publishing imprints.

We’ll look further into the consequences of these trends for readers, authors, and publishers in future posts, and also look more closely at the meaning of the discrepancy between the snapshot sales rankings and the calendar year bestsellers. But let’s stop there for now and remember that bargains, like beauty, are often in the eye of the beholder.

With that in mind, we would love it if you would take 3 minutes to answer 3 questions about what constitutes a bargain in today’s ebook market, the importance of bargains, and how you find your best ebook buys.

Please? It will really help us drill down on how we can best serve you at BookGorilla. And thanks in advance!

Create your own user feedback survey

50 thoughts on “Kindle Store eBook Prices Are Rising … Or Are They?

  1. I just bought The Lonely Silver Rain for 1.99 the res of the series are 7.99 or higher even though they are decades old. I would buy more classic books but they are too high priced and I know the authors are either dead or out of copyright. Digital is cheap for the publisher and volume would make for higher earnings as these books cannot be resold or loaned. Greed is not always good

    1. I totally agree. That turns me off the most is seeing a book that you know you could get a hard copy for much less. You know it is greed when they have all the other books in the series higher priced, they get you interested with the first one and then raise the rest.

    2. I agree with the above statements. I tried to buy an old favorite of mine but ended up rereading it in paperback because I wouldn’t pay the $ 7.99 price.

    3. I used to buy new books from a certain author on the release date, they cost 15 USD or so. Now that they cost 22 USD (mind you, I’m hungarian, I don’t know how much they cost for US citizens,) that’s definitely not a price I’m willing to pay for an E-BOOK. So I checked whether I cand find them for free… and I could. His last book could be downloaded on the Internet before it even was released, and from on torrent sites, I never use them. (But I still looked on Amazon first… 22 USD… no order.)
      So they had a customer who paid 15 USD / book…. and now they have one who doesn’t buy.
      But of course I still buy from other authors, today I bought one from Kathy Reichs. It’s absolutely not my goal to find free downloads somewhere on the Internet….

    4. Trying new authors with a bargain priced or free book is a fun (but often frustrating) way to read new authors or even subjects which are not my usual type of read. This often leads to becoming a fan with willingness to pay higher prices for more. This is fine and good for all. However, I do not like the increasing trend of spinning out what amounts to a serializing process that breaks the book into short stories which are indeed quite short and have no resolution. I look at the length of the book and the blurbs for the next stories before getting the first book even if it is bargain priced or even free.

    5. I agree completely David. One of my favorite authors has some of her backlist, books over 20 years old, selling for $15 to $19. That is greed pure and simple on the part of her publisher. I also resent when a new book comes out and the e book price is more than the pb book. Do these people think we won’t notice? When the pb price is lower I just borrow the book from my library, so the author and the publisher lose out.

    6. I agree with the previous post. I think he makes valid points about classics, however, I wouldn’t stop there. I have noticed that where the 1st. ebook in a best -selling authors series may be free or just $.99, the remaining books prices rise drastically and while I pay for kindle unlimited, which helps. Lately it seems as if less of the best-selling authors I wish to buy and have followed for years books are available through this venue and the price of their ebooks on Amazon, even through BookGorilla, are more expensive than I could buy the paperback at any large discount chain.

    7. They were very inexpensive or free when we started using our Kindles. We picked up many classics at that time, luckily. Now I hate starting a series because I know the follow-ups will be too high to buy.

  2. Almost Never spend over 99 cents for my kindle books….those publishers attempting to
    Charge BIG prices for Kindle books are ripping the readers off.

  3. I completely agree with David’s comment above. I am dismayed over prices above $7.99. Some books I can buy cheaper than ebooks. I have taken a pass on books from some of my favorite authors due to their high cost.

  4. I find it disappointing to start reading a new series of ebooks, and after getting the first one free or for bargain price, and the rest in the series are six dollars or higher.

  5. I am retired and on a fixed income so of course I love the free books. I have found many new authors by choosing one of their books free. I will then read as many of their works as I feel I can afford. $3.99 is pretty much my top price point. I also am a Kindle Unlimited Member and get my money’s worth every month.

  6. I do not like to pay more than $.99 for a book of less than 100 pages, I would love to read some of the sequels out there, but can’t see paying a lot of money for just a few pages.

  7. I would buy physical books all day long if the publishers included a free digital copy.

    How can they justify charging anywhere the same dollar price for ebooks as their physical counterparts?

  8. Maybe it will help me be more selective. I hope there will still be free E books available. I have just signed up for kindleunlimited. Hopefully, I will be more motivated if l can download more books and return them when I have finished them. Thanks very much, joyce hume

  9. Why, exactly is it that we, as consumers, cannot lend or re-sell books in our libraries? I personally am quite a bit less likely to take a chance in buying a book knowing in advance that I can’t re-sell a title that I don’t care for. Additionally, the same is true about a title I really like, in that I cannot loan my title to a friend. It is likely, especially with a series of books, that my friend will then go out and purchase the remaining books in the series for their own libraries. It makes the overall value of a book, a book that costs nothing to produce additional copies of, lower by simply not being as flexible as my paperback collection. A paperback collection, I might add, that is fairly large at this point in my life and I still can’t get rid of it! To replace my paperback collection with digital copies would cost me a fortune, and I would have less flexible copies for it! I just don’t understand why they insist on infringing on the rights that have always been unspoken but accepted by publishers, I guess only because there was no way to stop it before. Someone should tell them they are losing some business from at least THIS book buyer, through some short-sightedness on the part of the publishers (or is it really Amazon at the heart of this?).

  10. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that thinks the prices for an ebook is exorbitant for best sellers. I have coughed up some bucks to get certain books but not always. The only way the publishers are going to listen to us readers is if people don’t buy the best sellers in ebook form. That is the only way we are going to get them to pay attention. I believe in paying an author for their work. That is their intellectual property and they are sharing it with us however, one does not appreciate being taken to the cleaners on price. I have stopped reading several of my favorite authors simply because I refuse to pay the prices for an ebook. I would also like to point out that simply because an ebook may be free or at a very low price that the books are not quality. I have rarely gotten a $2.99 ebook and lower and been disappointed. I like ebooks because I have very limited space now and cannot physically house many physical books.

  11. In 2012 I had a list of 71 authors, that were published by large publishing houses, that I bought about every book they wrote. Due to price increases by them and the quality of the books by “Indies”, that list is down to about 12 authors and I do not even check on the latest books by the others. Of the 12 left I will not pay over $12 for their books, I feel that a higher price is just taking advantage of me. I just stick their books on my “Wish List” and wait for a price drop. No drop, no purchase. In the meantime I am reading a lot of great books priced under $7, some a lot better than the higher priced books.

  12. I am an avid reader. I love to read books that draw me into the plot and hold my interest. I would love for good authors to be encouraged they can make a living writing great stories. In my mind, I would think that high volume and low prices would be a better choice than high prices for low volume sales.
    I am on limited income. I want and need good bargains. If book prices keep rising, I will not be purchasing as many books. – only remaining great ones from the past.

  13. My biggest problem is with the price of older books. Publishers are charging 8.00 and up for books that were published 20 years ago. A good example is a series of book by John Jakes. The first book( The Bastard ) was recently .99. The rest in the series are over 9.00. I can go to a used book store and get them for .50. I refuse to pay for a 20 plus year old book then I did when it was first released. They are being greedy.

  14. I also mostly avoid bargains that are part of a series. I am old enough and have been collecting and reading kindle books since 2007, so I have sufficient books to be read, for life, even if I never bought another book from this day forward. Of course I still buy several most weeks.

    I also look at the size of so called bargain books by favorite authors, after being sucked into a novella or long short story with what would be a decent price for an actual book.

  15. A lot of the authors I read have always published paperbacks for $7.99. But I have been noticing a trend where those same authors are now having their books released in a larger (trade) version for $15 – all that changes is the size of font and size of book – or in hardcover for at least $25. Why the change? To gouge the public. Even the ebook version is $11, when it used to be around $5 or $6. That’s the only thing I can think of, considering there will be 9 or 10 in a series in the small paperback (MM) and then suddenly it’s published larger. I’ve stopped reading series because it’s getting too expensive for them to expect us to start paying $15 for a book that used to be $8.

  16. I’d be curious to see how Kindle Unlimited figures into that trend. There are far more indie works in KU than there are bestsellers and traditional published works. Additionally, I do see a trend of indie authors increasing their prices a little. Many of my favorite indie authors are now going for $3.99-$4.99 where in the past there seemed to be more at $1.99-$2.99. I’m not complaining since I’ve also noticed a corresponding increase in the quality of indie works. I’m okay to pay a little more for some better editing. That said I’ve dropped some authors when they’ve gone to $6.99 and higher.

  17. I worked as a bookseller for 15 years. The publishers claim that prices are on ebooks because the true cost of the book is advertising. Yet the majority of books that show up in store have had no advertising at all, not even advanced reader copies, and they are the same price as the heavily advertised paperbacks.

    Personally I won’t buy a book that costs more than $3.99. Most books I purchase are at the $1.99 price point. I routinely check the daily deals and monthly best sellers. I daily check the free best sellers and have found more than one book I own as a physical book.

    Being a bookseller, I have a love of books and always purchased my own copy of anything I wanted to read. (Yes, I own a huge amount of book shelves. And book storage boxes.) But now, anything I can’t purchase for $3.99 or less I now get from the library. And as my library has a request form to acquire particular books, I almost always can get what I’m looking for from them. I may wait a bit for the book, but the daily and monthly books keep me occupied. And it’s so easy. I log on to the library website, check out the e-book and start reading.

    And I’d have been happy to complete your survey if I could have found it. I checked every link on the page and nothing went to it.

  18. I really feel the authors are being underhanded when they charge 99 cents for a short novella or a preview of a few pages…it makes me not want to read ANY of their books .

  19. I have over 3000 books on my Kindle, however I have stopped purchasing them like I did before and the reason is the cost. To purchase an ebook is no longer the bargain it used to be. I also resent the fact that publishers have to print and ship a physical book, yet there is very little difference in the price of that and an ebook.

  20. Under 10$ like Amazon advertised when Kindled first came out. Bargains are for me popular authors from NY Times best sellers list at 10-12 dollar range. I find some on Book Gorilla and some by searching Amazon, but they don’t make it easy.

  21. Any book $3.99 and under is a bargain to me (just check out the price of a paperback these days). But a BARGAIN is $1.99 or less. I buy so many books, I have to depend on the bargains. It’s the difference between buying two books a month or 15. Best way for me to find bargains is my wish list(s). I make humongous wish lists and check them every single day for price drops. Joining Kindle Unlimited is a big bargain for persons like myself who read so many books.

  22. I do not understand how an ebook can cost more than a paperback book. I have over 125 books on my Amazon Wishlist that I would love to purchase but I refuse to spend the money they are asking for. Some of these books have been on my Wishlist for 2 years and the prices have not changed. I typically look for books around $2.99 and I definitely will not buy a book more than $4.99. I wish authors would wise up and realize that they are losing their loyal readers.

  23. I enjoy and appreciate Book Gorilla and its daily offerings, and look forward to it. I currently have a Kindle library of about 351 books. Please continue the great offerings. My personal preference includes those books relating to Christian Theology and related subjects, though I also find interest in other offerings as they come in daily.

  24. I totally agree, and just bought The Lonely Silver Rain as well. John D. MacDonald was a gifted writer, and I would love to buy all of his books digitally. I can not do so at 11.99 per book. If one or two of the Travis McGee books would go on sale each month, it would boost sales, I think.

  25. When I was young, I would typically read a book a day (paperbacks). I had gotten away from reading until I found the Kindles a few years ago (I now have 3 Kindles that are all on the same account). I have a collection of well over a thousand books that will last for quite a few years. Many of the books I have were “FREE” – this allowed me to find new and exciting authors. Now I keep track these authors and watch for their new books. I will actually pay (up to $4.99) for a few VERY GOOD authors. I don’t need any more books but I keep looking at the “FREE” (or up to $0.99) books from new authors. When I find a good one that I enjoy reading I will continue to follow them and support their writing by buying their books.

  26. I actually prefer to buy indie or through sites like Baen. I’ve read the authors’ point of view and the reality is that, even though publishers are charging $7.99 to $12.99 for e-books, the authors themselves are lucky to see a dollar of that for each e-book sold–which is the same as they get for each hardback or paperback sold.

    When you buy from an indie writer or directly from Baen, the writer is seeing more of that money for their work. If you want to support authors rather than publishing houses, support indies through major online retailers and support small publishing houses by buying directly from them rather than through major online retailers.

  27. I am a relatively new comer to e books. I am usually a $3.99 and under purchaser. Any books that I purchase are books that I otherwise would not purchase at all. I am very satisfied with my shopping experience through Kindle and Bookbub. Some of my most satisfying reading experiences has been local and small authors. I have been recommending this medium of reading and expect the market to grow. It is natural to expect the market to change over time with ew readers.

  28. Over time I have favorites among authors. I love when they do sequels and/or trilogies. Wilder, Davis, Doxer.,Lynn and others whose names escape me. I’d pay more for some of the literary fiction I enjoyed also.

  29. I used to go to the library to get books from my favorite authors. I received a Kindle as a gift two years ago and have not been to the library since. I have not wanted to pay the high prices for the books by my favorite authors that are on Kindle, so I have found many new authors that I enjoy reading. What bothers me is the Book 1 cliffhangers for free, I have stopped reading anything that indicates it is a series. They gift you with the first book and then book two costs $5.99 or more and sometimes the book is only 100 pages. Way to expensive for my taste. By the time you have finished with the series, you probably have spent more than a hardcover book would cost in a store. E-books have to be considerably cheaper to produce, so pass that on to the customer.

  30. I purchase of my books from the free to $2.99 category. Occasionally I might treat myself to a higher priced book if it sounds too good not to. Truthfully I find that the category free-2.99 have the best selections. I absolutely love Book Gorilla. Don’t change a thing!

  31. I buy the 99 -1.99 book offerings, usually. I can find some good books there. I feel that many times the books offered are not in high demand. Other times, I am surprised that I had a great find.

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