Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

EBOOK ALERT: Random House Instituting Agency Pricing as of March 1


I took some screenshots of prices last night to see how the new Agency prices would compare.   Random House’s digital book prices appear to be equal for mass market, $9.99 for trades, and varying prices for hardcovers.


As of March 1, 2011, Random House will move from its existing retail relationship to Agency pricing. This means that Random House will set the price for ebooks and retailers like Amazon and Barnes&Noble will NOT be able to discount. I have been perusing the catalog over at Amazon and buying some sub $5.00 deals as I doubt those will be in existence tomorrow.

For those who might want to engage in a late night shopping excursion, here is the best way to search for titles.

Click on Books. Look to the right and click on Advanced Search.

Here you will be able to enter the publisher, format (Kindle), and subject (romance etc). You can also set it so that the search results are from low to high:

Publisher = imprint so you will have to run this search a few times to pull up all the titles. I’ve done Bantam, Ballantine, Dell, Spectra, and Random House.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. becca
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 21:34:54

    oh, well. It looks like I’ll be reading more science fiction, buying from publishers like Baen who seem to give a shit about their customers.

  2. Maria Zannini
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 22:23:07

    Thank you so much for posting this. It was very helpful.

  3. Ridley
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 22:32:18

    Fucking Apple.

  4. Nadia Lee
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 22:36:20

    Thanks for letting us know. This is a very disappointing move by RH. :-(

  5. Janine
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:16:39

    Very helpful post, but how frustrating that both this move by Random House and the one by HarperCollins should come on the heels of the TOC conference and at a time when ebooks are selling so well.

  6. Nadia Lee
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:17:54

    @Janine: I can’t help but feel that the big NY pubs are doing their best to force readers to buy print. *sigh*

  7. Janine
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:36:53

    @Nadia Lee: I wonder if it’s working? Because it seems to me that once you get truly hooked on a good ereader, it’s difficult to turn back to paper. Especially if you have piles of paper books everywhere, as many of us voracious readers do. And so the feeling I can’t help but have is that high prices will also drive some readers toward piracy. It seems like it could be a dangerous gamble for these publishers.

  8. Nightwriter
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:43:59

    The big pubs can’t see beyond their own noses. In trying to force us to keep supporting their favorite publishing model (print), they’re actually shoving us toward their competition.

    My husband recently bought a Kindle and nearly swallowed his own tongue when he went looking on Amazon for his favorite authors. Rather than pay outrageous prices for Koontz, he ended up buying a variety of small press and indy authors. So many of us out here are in a financial crunch, these agency prices are forcing us to try alternative reading material. The big winners in this will be the little pubs and the indies.

  9. Ann G
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:44:34

    I hope the publishers doing this will learn the errors of their ways, and allow merchants to discount their books. I usually get books from the library first, then my e-reader (Kindle), then print. I’ll always like print books, but I also love my library.

  10. Keishon
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:48:09

    Just read and thanks. Bummer.

  11. Kaetrin
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 00:06:13

    well that sucks.

  12. Lisa W.
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 00:27:59

    From what I’ve seen w/some of the new prices, it looks like Random House expects readers to pay 100% of the print price for the digital ebook. Shame on them.

  13. Kerry D.
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 00:38:45

    Even more requests from the library in my future, I think.

  14. Evangeline Holland
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 01:08:22

    I wondered a little about this at SBTB, but does your average e-book buyer even know about Agency pricing? When I browse Amazon’s boards, I’ve seen griping about delayed ebooks, but if I look at the books I plan to buy in hardcover (Pale Demon & River Marked), I don’t see a stir about the prices for the Kindle versions. Based on what I can recall, when Amazon pulled all Macmillan titles in reaction against Agency pricing, the boards were full of Kindle users angry that the books weren’t on sale in any format. Most didn’t (and still don’t) understand or care about Agency pricing–they care mostly about the availability of e-books. Repeating what I said at the SBTB, a consumer ordering their Kindle or Nook or Kobo right now will not only be unaware of Agency and pre-Agency pricing methods, but is likely to shop only at Amazon or BN or Kobo, not search on the internet for cheaper e-books, or to pirate ebooks, or to find e-publishers. And if they’re accustomed to buying their books at full price or new hardcovers at a discount, those e-book prices look normal, and in the case of HC’s, like an excellent deal. Yes, ebook consumption is rising at an astounding pace, and e-published and self-published authors are selling briskly, but for the present, e-book buying habits mirror print, which with Agency pricing, is strictly in publishers’ favor.

  15. Nadia Lee
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 02:23:28

    @Janine: It did work for this reader. But it didn’t quite create the outcome they wanted.

  16. library addict
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 02:56:46

    Boo! I was hoping Agency Pricing would go away this coming April, not that that the last of the big 6 would join in. I haz a sad.

  17. Barbara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 05:07:45

    The only Agency Kindle books I buy at all anymore are the ones I absolutely won’t wait 2 days for (vs. the less expensive bound version) that I didn’t preorder – and you can imagine how rare those are. As tired as I am of figuring out storage for bound books, it’s just cheaper with my Amazon Prime.

    I buy enough books that saving $1 or $2 on every book is big to me at the end of the year.

  18. Lynn N
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:20:52

    I can’t afford to spend the same amount for ebooks that I do for paper. So it will come down to a choice. It really gets my back up to see these high prices for what are essentially downloads with limited options for use.

  19. Angela
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 07:32:03

    @Evangeline Holland: I think there is notice of the pricing – most every book that is Agency priced it tagged with ‘Overpriced Kindle version’ – whether average readers know of the reasoning behind the pricing or not, they are recognizing that the pricing is ridiculous. And there are threads in the discussion boards about the pricing too, though I’ve never read them to see if they’re aware of Agency pricing or not.

    Gah. I wish I’d seen this last night. *sigh*

  20. jmc
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:30:25

    Fewer and fewer of the books I read are big publisher books. While I do still buy a few authors in paper, the vast majority of my book buying is electronic, and publisher pricing isn’t going to change that.

    This does not really surprise me, though, since the big publishing houses do seem to have their heads buried in the sand, more worried about the quick buck than long term growth.

  21. Ella Drake
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:31:54

    Last few days, I’d watched a certain book to see if it’d go down in price. Today it went up.

    Deus Ex: Icarus Effect by James Swallow (Del Rey) kindle edition went from $8.46 (already too high for me) to $11.99

    I won’t be buying this book.

  22. Joy
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:59:17

    I wonder if the last of the big 6 joining Agency pricing would lend momentum to any lawsuits that this is monopoly/price fixing. Thoughts?

  23. Ridley
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:10:22


    It is hard to go back to paper, you’re right. That’s why I’ve been playing more videogames lately.

  24. Angela
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:32:12

    Thanks for the reminder Ridley that I’m still trying to beat Heavenly Sword on my PS3.

    I love owning paper books, but I prefer to read ebooks.

  25. Karenmc
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:56:23

    I’m so glad the UBS up the hill from me is doing such a brisk business. There are very few authors for whom I’ll pay extortion money (yes Joy, it sure walks and quacks like price fixing).

  26. hannah
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:04:57

    thanks for the reminder. i went on a mini shopping spree and sure enough the titles i bought by linnea sinclair and amanda quick were full price this a.m. wish i could have bought more but i’m on vacation and only have internet access on my kindle.

  27. Darlynne
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:09:20

    @Nadia Lee: That could be their goal, since they seem to understand so little beyond getting physical books into stores, but it’s not working in my small corner of the globe. If I can’t get the ebook I want, I go to the library. If the library doesn’t have it, I wait until they do. If they never get it, I buy the book used. I am patient and I remember. Big 6: 0, Me: 1.

  28. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:11:05

    @Joy If the FTC hasn’t looked into it by now, I don’t think it will. My guess is that it’s too little of a market to be of concern?

  29. Author On Vacation
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:35:26

    I already own a much larger library of print books than I can reasonably fit in my home. No matter what “polite encouragement” publishers offer, ebook format will continue to be my first choice when it comes to purchasing new books.

    I have a pretty high tolerance when it comes to pricing. If I want the book, and I can afford it, I buy it. The publishing has a right to earn a living and I won’t haggle with an industry as to what they should charge me for a luxury item.

    With that said, I’m more reluctant than ever to part with money for a book. It is harder and harder to find authors and stories to my taste and since I already own tons of books I like, I can just as easily read those books over again.

    As books get pricier, I get more demanding. As it is, I already entertain pretty tough standards of what separates a “great” read from a “good” read and a “mediocre” read from a “bad” read. I wouldn’t mind paying $20 for a bestseller ebook, but that book needs to be incredible in terms of creativity, technical writing, and editorial quality.

    Instead, the “big” publishers want readers to pay $9-$14 for unexceptional books.

    I will never pirate books, print or ebook, because, frankly, I don’t believing in stealing.

    But I don’t buy on the scale I once did and I’m unlikely to increase my purchases as the industry continues to demand more for less.

  30. becca
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:56:07

    what we need is a Dear Indy Author review site, to help me find good indy romance or romantic suspense writers. (I’m not all that into erotica, so that lets out a couple of publishers).

    I find I’m buying fewer books in paper – I just don’t have the room, and have no romance-friendly USB to take them to when I’m done with them. I would love to buy more books in eformat, but not at agency prices. My ereading is now mostly free or Project Gutenberg books. (I can recommend the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini – Old Benvenuto was quite a guy!)

  31. Diane V
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:08:08

    The pricing of ebooks (more than what it costs to buy the paperback) is why I have yet to buy an ereader and now probably never will with the fixed-pricing shenanigans of the Big 6 publishers.

    I just wish that those with ereaders would stop buying ebooks from the Big 6 at the inflated prices — that’s the only way to stop the price gauging.

    I’m convinced that many reader’s refusal to buy the larger “easier to read” paperbacks that also cost $3 more is why we weren’t stuck with all mass paperbacks at the inflated size and prize. The only Nora Roberts book I never read was “Northern Lights” which was released in the bigger size paperback — out of principal I never even read the book at the library or bought it at a UBS because I didn’t want to give any indication that I supported these inflated books.

  32. JenM
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:20:05

    Darn, I wish I’d seen this last night, I would have gone shopping. My already low “Big 6” purchases are about to plummet even further.

    I went from spending approx. $2,000/yr on large publishing house books to spending about $250/yr on them after agency pricing was instituted. I’d switched completely to ebooks before agency pricing, now PaperbackSwap and Bookmooch are my favorite sites on the web – and neither the publishers (or unfortunately the authors) get any revenue from me when I swap. Meanwhile, when I do buy new, Samhain, Harlequin, Carina, and Indie authors are the ones that get most of my business.

    The Big 6 business model is unsustainable, it’s just a question of how long it will take to fail completely. The people I feel the most sorry for are the poor authors who’ve poured their sweat and tears into their work and are being screwed by market forces beyond their control and by these companies’ willful blindness.

  33. Sandia
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:26:08

    I had just gone on a small buying binge of the $5.00 books (I’d assumed they were all RH). Those books were all on the top Kindle Bestsellers due to price. You’ll definitely see these numbers fall.

  34. Sunita
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:10:27

    @jmc: What you said. So glad that HMB publishes so many books and that I’m still a long way from catching up on my m/m reading.

    It’s ironic that a company who’s Great Leader said “people don’t read books” is the catalyst for all of this.

  35. RachelT
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:17:42

    @becca: The Indie Ebook Hall of Fame might be of interest to you:

  36. HollyY
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:33:42

    When I buy books anymore, I buy directly from small press publishers. I have a Nook, so occasionally if I REALLY like an author I’ll buy from B&N. Since I primarily read erotic romance, it’s not hard to find quality publishers with good reading material. Shame on the publishers. Readers have long memories – they’ll wish they hadn’t messed with us in the end. You know, when their publishing model collapses and sinks beneath the waves like the Titanic.

    I’m the King of the World…glub…glub…glub…

  37. HollyY
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:34:45

    @HollyY: I meant shame on the BIG 6 publishers – not the small press ones. I like them. ;-)

  38. Tinabelle
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:32:13

    The Agency Model has definitely changed the way I read/buy books. If the publishers hoped to push me into buying print over electronic versions because of pricing; they have failed. I have had a Kindle for 3 years and have not bought a paper fiction book since then. The only books I buy in print anymore are nonfiction art, travel, or crafting books. And i have cut back on these, too.

    High book prices and the economy have taken a toll on my book buying budget. I think twice when the Kindle version is more than the print version and almost always decide to pass. I use the library or read something else. There are very few authors who are must reads for me anymore, but i still won’t pay more than the print version. I’ll pay the same for these authors but not more.

    Unfortunately most of the authors I like to read fall under the AM pricing model so I have to think twice about many purchases. I am buying less books and using the library more.

  39. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:43:30

    I’m convinced of a couple things. First, Random House made this move so it could get into the iBookstore. Perhaps Apple offered them a sweet placement deal in the iBookstore.

    Second, 72% of book buyers which account for about half of book buying (Stats from Bowkers) are casual buyers. Thus, the iBookstore, which will now have all the major bestsellers, is a fine and dandy bookstore for them. Further, because these casual bookbuyers represent buy infrequently (maybe one book a month) are generally price insensitive. After all, what is a $12.99 book when you used to pay $17.99?

    The question remains is how much of the $$ spent by the 18% that drives 50% of the book purchasing will shift away from major book publishers because of price. Certain books will always be purchased by this 18% regardless of price. (ie. Nora Roberts, Patricia Briggs, Karen Marie Moning, Deborah Macomber, etc). But some portion will be shifted away to lower priced books put forth by smaller publishers, self published books, and the like.

    Can the major publishers sustain that kind of loss. I would argue that RH, Hachette, Penguin can but that S&S, HC, and perhaps Macmillan cannot.

    S&S and HC are financially insecure. They aren’t looking for long term solutions because right now, they are trying to increase their balance sheet and make their media overlords (newscorp & CBS) happy. Further, because the market is changing so dramatically, a long term solution might be outdated in 6 months.

    So that’s my view on it. I would guess that three of the big 6 won’t be around in 5 years.

  40. Joy
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:48:49

    How big is the iBookstore, in terms of the ebook market? I’d assumed that a lot of people with iThings used other apps as well.

  41. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:50:23

    @Joy: My understanding is that it is tiny. Like less than one percent.

  42. Joy
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 16:02:52

    As I thought.

    I’m working on a theory that says the Agency 6 are trying as hard as they can to not sell e-books while still offering e-books for sale.

  43. brooksse
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 17:25:29

    So another one bites the dust, at least as far as I’m concerned. Guess I’ll be buying even more books from HQN, Kensington and Sourcebooks now. They’ve been the biggest beneficiaries of Agency Pricing when it comes to my ebook dollars.

  44. Kristine
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 23:07:18

    This worries me because if all of the major publishing houses are now on board on the price gouging no excuse me the Agency pricing my biggest fear is that the publishers are no going to try to force the biggest e-retailers to remove all of the books that are released by publishers are not under the model. I mean what would stop them from doing this at this point. This is the final step from pushing this model into to retail sphere because with the collaspe of Borders the publishers now will have upper hand and I fear what they are going to do and how high book prices are going to go

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