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

Kindle Pricing So Low that Amazon Is No Longer Discounting Paperbacks?

Amazon’s pricing for mass market books has suddenly gone full retail, no discount since the release of the Kindle. When questioned in Newsweek about the low pricing, Bezos saidlow-margin and high-volume sale–"you just have to make sure the mix [between discounted and higher-priced items] works." It looks like Bezos is hoping to make more money off the high volume of sales from those mass market purchasers. Like romance readers who account for 21% of the retail book industry.

A sharp eyed reader emailed me the blog post of author Natalie Damschroder.

You know how I said, below, that my book Brianna’s Navy SEAL is selling at Amazon for $15.00 in trade paperback? Last month I paid $10.20.

Doing a random selection of mass markets to be released on Tuesday, it shows that the discount for paperbacks has disappeared.

I guess this is one way of forcing readers to purchase the Kindle. If Kindle success rises or falls on the backs of the mass market purchasers, this is going to be ugly because I see a whole bunch of Amazon purchasers being pretty upset about this turn of events.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

44 Comments

  1. Janet
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 22:37:07

    Because it’s not enough to charge end users to read blogs and newspapers that would otherwise be free. This is so undermining my confidence in Amazon’s oft-promoted commitment to readers.

  2. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 22:42:24

    Hmmmm…. I’ve always loved Barnes and Noble and suddenly, they are even more appealing.

    I’ll probably be doing my online shopping from BN.com and my in person buys from Borders or Indies. Amazon is just leaving a bad, bad taste in my mouth the longer this Kindle thing is out.

    High pressure sales trying to lure people into buying their overpriced e-reader… I hate being pressured into anything. All they’ll do is lose me as a customer.

  3. Chicklet
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 22:53:34

    Hmmmmm. I have an Amazon order due to arrive at my house on Saturday, and after that… well, let’s just say I have a feeling it’ll be a long, long time before I make another order from them.

  4. Laura
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 22:57:21

    I’ll just be scratching that Amazon gift “card” off my xmas list now…..

  5. Charlene Teglia
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:05:21

    Um, without the Amazon discount, there’s no reason for me to shop there as opposed to B&N with my member discount.

    I really don’t get the thing with charging for blog content. You can already download web content to a PDA for free.

  6. Miki
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:06:04

    I don’t remember Amazon discounting mass market paperbacks for a long time now – long before Kindle. Not saying I’m all that impressed with Kindle, but it’s one of the reasons I stopped buying MMPB at Amazon , seems like years ago. No discount at all (unless you do the buy 3, get one free deal).

  7. azteclady
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:08:04

    This is weird… I don’t remember having gotten any mass market paperback at a discount from amazon. Ever.

    Hardbacks, the occasional DVD, other stuff–hell, yes. But paperback? Never.

    Then again, that’s perhaps because of the titles I was buying? I dunno…

  8. ArkansasCyndi
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:16:52

    This is so interesting. I ordered a DVD for a niece from Amazon on Saturday. When I logged in, I got a note that the prices of the books I had in my “cart” had changed. One of them went from $16 to $25. I didn’t look through the books, so I missed the fact Amazon removed their discount. Thanks for posting this.

    As far as my book buying, without a discount, there’s no reason for me to go to Amazon. BAM, B&N or indies, here I come.

    Plus, I resent the fact Amazon seems to be force the Kindle down the throat of their customers.

  9. DS
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:31:38

    Miki and Azteclady are right about mm paperbacks at Amazon. The discount on Amazon mmpb is 4 for the price of 3. I just checked my book list and the prices are all the same. Most hardcovers are significantly discounted unless they are some sort of special order and then there is a fee attached. But this is the way it’s been for years.

  10. Jane
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:37:12

    I thought the new books were always some percentage off.

  11. Teddypig
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 23:53:59

    I have always found better prices at B&N than Amazon.
    Amazon just has used or out of print books I sometimes buy.

  12. DS
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 00:00:48

    If you preorder you get 5% off on certain books. I just did some browsing around and the book Brianna’s Navy Seal is published by Amber Quill. It looks like all of their trade books have no discount (the Kindle edition is about 5.90.) Some of Ellora’s Cave books have a discount and some don’t. Samhain’s all seem to have a discount. Don’t know what they are doing with pricing but I don’t think it is as simple as dropping discounts.

  13. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 00:27:22

    Some of the MM paperbacks have been discounted, and trades always were, IIRC. I am a Prime member, so I get free two day shipping, but I have a feeling we’re going to see more pricing changes now as Amazon continues to push for a larger profit margin.

  14. Ann Bruce
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 01:06:49

    I mainly shop on Amazon.ca, and the only time mmpb get discounted is when they’re on the Globe & Mail bestseller list (50% off). Otherwise, they’ve always been full price. Trade and hardcover, however, are usually heavily discounted.

    I also buy my animated DVDs from them because they’re usually cheaper than Wal-Mart if I pre-order early enough.

  15. Collette
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 01:11:32

    I’ve found that some of the “big” names have never been discounted at Amazon in mass market format nor are they generally part of the buy 4 for the price of 3 discount, although there are still plenty of books in that category. Additionally, if you do a pre-order, you get 5% off the price of the book. For me, it’s cheaper even if there’s no discount because I don’t pay tax (almost 10% here) and there are no shipping costs. It doesn’t stop me from shopping locally when I just have to have it though. But I live in a university neighborhood where the independent bookstores (and there are 3 with both new and used inventory) don’t carry romances. At all. Never. Too low-brow. Jane Austen is as far as they’ll go. ;-) (rant over!)

  16. Libby
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 01:11:45

    Yeah. Buh bye, Amazon! I’m just happy I made my big order LAST week.

  17. Lori
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 01:57:04

    Looks like B&N or BooksaMillion will be my new e-tailer if this trend continues. Yuck.

  18. Mike Perry, InklingBooks
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 03:00:45

    Relax. Keep in mind that mass-market paperbacks are cheaply printed to be sold in large quantities at places other than bookstores. The paper yellows quickly. The margins are small and the binding falls apart quickly. If the book doesn’t look like trash, it isn’t a mass-market paperback.

    Most paperbacks are printed to higher standards and sold for a bit more as trade paperbacks. I just checked, and the thirty-odd titles I’ve written, edited and published are still discounted by Amazon when their retail price is over the usual $10 breakpoint. The discount may be down a bit. Usually there are one or two of my titles with a 33+% discount, but I found none this time. But the discount is still there at around 20% for trade paperbacks and 24% for more pricey hardbacks. If you combine enough purchases to get free shipping, Amazon may still makes sense.

    I doubt this has anything to do with Kindle. Most of their customers haven’t bought one and never will. This is just typical Amazon behavior. Amazon likes to play games with their customers, tweaking prices up and down and making books seem to appear or disappear when you do anything but an ISBN search. (I’ve discussed with their legal department their tendency to tilt search results in favor of pricier editions. I got nowhere.)

    In this case they’re probably hoping the big Christmas shopping season will be over before most people notice the rise in prices. They’ll get the sales without having to offer as large a discount. Discounts may even rise again after the first of the year as sales drop off. Also, keep in mind that with the rise in fuel prices, shipping costs are rising. A major part of the cost of a book is the shipping.

    On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t hurt to spread your purchases around to encourage more competition.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

  19. Stuart
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 03:54:23

    Thankfully, in the UK the mmpb from Amazon are still mostly priced in the less-than-£4 range (in the high street these go for about 50% more). I’ll admit, the free delivery from thebookdepository means that I’m ordering much less from Amazon these days though… Yay for competition, I guess.

  20. Jan
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 06:07:59

    I just checked those books at B&N and books a million, and they were the same prices, full retail. No one is giving a discount on them unless you belong to a club. Too bad for them. I may as well shop at local stores then and not have to pay for shipping, and not have to wait.

    Amazon also appears to have removed the “used” book listing from newer books so that you can’t access the discount chains that sell cheaper.

  21. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 07:52:21

    Regarding the discounted/not discounted, I’ve checked my invoices…always keep hold of them. I’d say about half the mass markets I’ve purchased from Amazon were discounted.

    I don’t know why some customers see the discounts and others don’t, though. That’s kind of weird.

    I did check on things like trades on amazon~those are still discounted at this point.

  22. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 07:53:47

    Too low-brow.

    *G* I LOVE being low brow. It’s so much more entertaining.

  23. Melissa
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:04:22

    I have only been ordering books from Amazon for the last couple of years, but I have never received a discount on MMPBs. I buy so much that I am always trying to work the angle for the cheapest books. I used to buy all my paperbacks from BN with my discount card, but once you add back in the 9.5% sales tax there was really no difference. I am loving the 5% discount on preorders at Amazon. That rocks, especially with trades and hardcovers.

  24. Bev Stephans
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:52:20

    The only time I buy mmpb from Amazon is if I get the buy 4 for the price of 3. I usually buy from Books-A-Million because even with the annual membership fee, I still save a significant amount over Amazon.

  25. Janice
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 11:54:46

    OK.. after I use my amazon gift certificate to by HARDCOVER books, it’s Barnes and Noble and Borders for me.

  26. sula
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 15:17:14

    I only ever buy paperbacks at my local Borders using one of those Rewards discount coupons that they always email me. 20% off, etc. Otherwise, libraries and paperbackswap.com are my friends. *g*

  27. Some Guy
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 16:03:20

    Umm, I’d always heard the number one retailer for MMPB came from NW Arkansas. Wal-something. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

    Thing with MMPBs is, Amazon doesn’t have that big inventory advantage–selections should be available at the grocery store, news stand, etc. I’d venture to say that MMPBs are the one area in books where Sprawlmart eats their lunch, and not worry too much if Amazon decides not to compete there.

    I’m sure a lot of people on this list hate Walmart, think the inventory’s meager, have complaints about it, etc. I understand. But millions of people shop there every week, and some of them buy MMPBs, which for this particular market leaves Amazon and everyone else in the dust.

  28. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:26:46

    Great sleuthing, ladies! And congrats on this story being picked up by GalleyCat.

    I probably wouldn’t have noticed the lack of discounting (at Amazon or other stores) because I buy so few new books, but it’s something that’ll now be in my brain as I shop.

  29. Shara
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:37:24

    As someone who purchases probably 50% of my books online, I can tell you without a doubt that Amazon has never discounted mass market paperbacks. Neither does Barnes and Noble unless you’re a member. Trades vary in price, with the price usually increasing after the book has been out for a while. As you can probably tell, I do a lot of comparison shopping. I usually like what you have to say, but in this case, it boggles my mind that you could print something that a little research would have shown was patently untrue.

  30. Miki
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:59:57

    I can tell you without a doubt that Amazon has never discounted mass market paperbacks.

    I wish there was a way to go back and research this, but I’m … 90%? … sure you’re mistaken on this. A friend of mine – years ago – first told me about Amazon soon after they went online. He went on-and-on about how every book was discounted, and how they were operating at a loss to get repeat business.

    I was still wary of shopping online back then (so we’re probably talking about pre-1997 or so, since I’ve been happily shopping online since around then), so I didn’t take advantage of my friend’s advice. And by the time I did, that MMPB discount was gone.

    Once Amazon built up enough word-of-mouth and repeat business, it did away with discounting on MMPB. At least, that’s how I remember it. So I don’t think it’s never, but I do think it’s been a long time, since they’ve discounted MMPB.

  31. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 20:22:29

    I know for a fact that I’ve bought discounted paperbacks from amazon. But that’s just me. I can’t speak for others.

  32. Catherine
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 02:49:44

    I don’t understand why so many people are having conflicting reports on the Amazon discount. I know that I have received it multiple times. I wonder why it would show up for some but not for others?… Thanks for the info Jane. The only real selling point that Amazon had for me was the discounts. I guess I’ll have to browse around and find a place with a better price now.

  33. Claudia
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 04:16:25

    I remember mass market Amazon discounts years ago. I bought all my books online then and spent mucho money on category romances in particular. I even had spreadsheets counting pennies saved by buying certain books from Amazon vs Books a Million. The discount was especially useful because many publishers didn’t have e-stores then and my favorite local bookstore didn’t carry romances.

    Amazon let’s you view your entire order history, but the info doesn’t include list vs. Amazon prices and out print books don’t contain pricing information when you look at them now. Still, I can tell which books were discounted because the cent amounts vary from the usual .95/.99 list prices.

    My return to “brick and mortars” happened immediately after Amazon’s mass market discounts disappeared. Crown discounted all books in local stores then and BN and Waldenbooks often had competing paperback promotions.

    It’s currently cheaper to use 20%-35% coupons at Borders, especially if one isn’t an Amazon Prime member or doesn’t want to use the free, slower shipping . I sometimes see Amazon mass market discounts for new releases in popular series or or the latest “it” book, but nothing otherwise.

  34. Stephen Windwalker
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 17:20:40

    Amazon mass market paperbacks have been priced at full retail for over a year now.

  35. Joe Wikert
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 11:17:00

    A quick check of BN.com shows that they’re selling those four books listed in the original post for the same price as Amazon. You can get a discount if you’re a “B&N Member”, but membership is not free. My guess is the same deal applies to the brick-and-mortar stores, so while there’s no discount now for buying these books on Amazon, it’s not like you’re getting a better deal somewhere else.

    I also doubt there’s a correlation between this discounting change and the release of the Kindle. Based on the $399 price point it’s clear Amazon is just trying to sell this product (initially) to early adopters who don’t mind paying a hefty premium. That doesn’t sound like the person shopping for a $5.99 mass paperback.

    Amazon is pretty smart when it comes to discounts and programs like this. They never do anything arbitrary. My guess is they studied a *lot* of data before making this change. Further, if the results aren’t what they expect you can bet they’ll make additional tweaks to their discounting.

    For the record, although I do *not* work at Amazon I *am* involved in the publishing industry.

    Joe Wikert
    Publishing 2020 Blog
    http://www.joewikert.com

  36. Jane
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 11:24:17

    Mr. Wickert – I have much respect for your online voice at your blog but this statement has raised my brows:

    Based on the $399 price point it's clear Amazon is just trying to sell this product (initially) to early adopters who don't mind paying a hefty premium. That doesn't sound like the person shopping for a $5.99 mass paperback.

    The lifeblood of the romance genre is exactly the person who shops for the $5.99 mass market paperback and that is exactly the type of person who will make the ereading market successful.

    The bestselling books in the ebook market are not hardcovers in the non fiction, business area. They are romance books that sell for $7.99 and less.

  37. Joe Wikert
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 11:32:27

    Hi Jane. Thanks for the complement about my blog. Perhaps I didn’t do a good job stating my point in this earlier comment. Let me ask it this way: How many fans of romance genre books are also out there buying the latest technology gadget? How many of them bought the original Tivo in the first 6 months? How many absolutely *must* have the latest computer hardware or operating system? These are the early adopters of technology that I’m talking about.

    Most of the folks I see jumping on the latest technology item don’t seem to fit the romance book audience. I don’t mean to speak in absolutes with this, btw, as there are definitely exceptions, but I think the typical technology early adopter is a very small percentage of the romance book buying crowd.

    Without sounding too sexist, I see the people in line for the new gadgets and they’re typically men. (Again, there are plenty of exceptions but gadget freaks tend to be male.) On the other hand, it appears that the romance book buyer is typically female. (Once again, there are exceptions, of course.)

    Does that help clarify things or have I dug an even deeper hole for myself?

    Joe Wikert
    Publishing 2020 Blog
    http://www.joewikert.com

  38. Jane
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 11:51:26

    I think that a) i am the wrong person to ask since I bought the Iphone the day it came out and the Sony Reader as well and b) that you might be asking the wrong question and that is who is the Kindle intended for?

    Do you know who is probably the most progressive epublisher in the market? Harlequin. They release every book, all 120-140 of them each month, in ebook format. I read somewhere that the sales of digital books for Harlequin has not yet reached even 1% but Harlequin seems to believe that the market for ebooks is not the early adopter but the voracious reader.

    If the Kindle and thus, Amazon’s success, rests solely on the shoulders of business individuals, techies and the like, I don’t see it going mainstream.

    Certainly that isn’t the market Harlequin is aiming for and it is not the market that makes epublishers like Samhain successful either.

  39. Joe Wikert
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 12:18:09

    Hi Jane. Yes, I’m well aware of Harlequin’s history with e-books. I’ve seen them referred to elsewhere as a leader and I would tend to agree. But, how much money does the typical Harlequin reader spend on dedicated e-book hardware? My guess is not much. There are exceptions and you’re probably a great example of that.

    Btw, I don’t think Amazon has built Kindle just for the business reader, techies, etc., as you note. Amazon is definitely looking for the mass market…but they won’t get there with a $399 device. As prices come down you’ll no doubt see a broader adoption by the mass market, of course.

  40. Read
    Apr 22, 2008 @ 17:12:12

    I agree. It has to be less expensive. That’s just too much. But also agree with the above that this is not just about business readers. I think the world is ready for a light, inexpensive reader that they can take to the park, on an airplane in the car and just throw it in their backpack without worrying about it breaking. I mean, you are not going to break a book. But when you pay $399 for an electronic device, you are going to be a little careful about it. Right there, some of the experience goes away.

    Keep at it Amazon. You almost have it right.

  41. MoJo
    May 04, 2008 @ 18:07:59

    Re: Kindle/early adopters

    I tend to agree with Mr. Wikert. The Kindle is too proprietary for the price. If you can *only* get your ebooks from Amazon in Kindle, you’re missing a lot of other ebooks from other sources. Of course, they have their conversion service and possible Mobi compatibility, but then add DRM on top of it and, well, no.

    I personally spent $150-whatever for the eBookWise because it’s so dang versatile with regard to format AND reasonably priced to boot. I also got the eBook Librarian to do conversions of my own documents. Do I miss that I can’t buy ebooks from Amazon without a bunch of rigmarole? No. They’re not even a blip on my radar.

  42. Shesin
    Sep 24, 2011 @ 10:11:19

    I’m glad I found this website. I’ve been wondering what in the world has happened to the pricing of books I’ve purchased. I love the Harlequin Intrigue books. For over a year I was able to purchase a few a month at a much discounted price, it was why I purchased my Kindle. Now I am having to pay a lot more and I’m almost to the point of wanting to purchase some other type of ereader. I don’t like the fact that Amazon is playing games. And they didn’t send any type of notification, the discounted prices just disappeared. I’m on a slow burn, not happy at all. Would I now recommend a Kindle to someone, NO. Did I before, Yes.

  43. Jane
    Sep 24, 2011 @ 10:14:02

    @Shesin: Actually, the reason that Kindle books are no longer discounted is not Amazon’s fault but is due to Agency pricing. You can read more about that here.

  44. Maili
    Sep 24, 2011 @ 11:26:03

    @Joe Wikert: Let me ask it this way: How many fans of romance genre books are also out there buying the latest technology gadget? How many of them bought the original Tivo in the first 6 months? How many absolutely *must* have the latest computer hardware or operating system? These are the early adopters of technology that I’m talking about.

    More than you may think. I remember quite a few romance readers’ posts about buying and explaining how Tivo worked on message boards and their blogs. Bearing in mind that the online romance community was supposed to be only 10% of the romance readership.

    Roughly ten years ago, there were many romance readers who were using PDAs – such as Palm and Pocket PC – as converted ebook readers. There were also some who had standalone ebook readers – such as Gemstar and Rocket Ebook – while some went for handheld computers and notebooks. There were also romance publishers who sold digital books from 1990s onwards.

    (Having said all that, I can tell you one thing: Deaf people are definitely early adopters, especially where telecommunications and video technology are concerned, but I never see a mention of them in articles about technology and its early adopters. So it’s no surprise that romance readers don’t get a mention either.)

    But, how much money does the typical Harlequin reader spend on dedicated e-book hardware? My guess is not much. There are exceptions and you’re probably a great example of that.

    I wonder whether you know how much a typical romance reader spend on books per month? In case you don’t – up to $100, comparing with a typical non-romance reader who spends up to $20 per month. There is certainly a smaller romance crowd who openly admits to spending up to $200 per month. Same with digital books.

    I do think there weren’t many, comparing with early adopters who didn’t use these gadgets for reading, but they were certainly way ahead of typical non-romance readers. Until roughly four years ago, romance readers seemed the only ones who read digital books, which they read on PDAs, PCs or standalone ebook readers.

    So yeah, I do think they would spend a lot on anything that might improve their reading experience.

%d bloggers like this: