At the Digital Book World conference in New York City, two industry leaders sat down and discussed the semantics of ebook pricing, and how it is currently affecting the industry and looking into the inner workings.
Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, was the moderator and discussed his site developing their own best seller list that took the price of the ebook into account. Jeremy started to notice a trend that fewer high priced books are best sellers and that there was a pretty good chance that books on the Kindle best seller list are priced lower than a year ago. Deep discounting, when combined with promotion, is very successful.
Dan Lubart, Principal, Iobyte Solutions, SVP Sales Analytics HarperCollins also weighed in on the subject. He started to notice that electronic book prices decreased for Kindle bestsellers since last April and it is the same with the NOOK list. He agreed with Jeremy that fewer high priced books are on the main bestseller lists. The publishing industry is starting to see the price of new books over $10 is trending down. There was a sustained shift from ebooks over $10 to $3-$7.99 over the 2012 holiday season, and started to rise in price again in the second week of January.
One of the main aspects of discounted ebook prices from over a year ago was due to the recent Justice Department settlement with the big six publishers. This abolished the agency model and now offers flexibility for online retailers to strike down the prices. Four of the major publishers are now allowing discounting and this is being reflected in the lower pricing across the board. The volume in sales is staying the same after the holidays, though. Everyone is seeing sales going back to normal now that the holiday season is over. So we should be seeing the “new normal” appearing soon. Publishers are starting not to worry as much about the market bottoming out.
The next thing they talked about was the sales at a higher or lower price. When price drops on some books, they saw a significant increase in the Amazon sales. They also saw the same with NOOK sales. In many cases, when retailers drop the price, the sales increase, making up for the loss in revenue. When looking at the highest price point that actually sells any type of volume, $14.99 seems to be the ceiling in most cases for ebook bestsellers. The silver bullet in the publishing world is when they establish an entry level price and never change it. The best thing for publishers to do right now is to experiment with pricing and learn what is happening in the market.
There is no magic price for ebooks and no definitive market value. There is no golden rule for setting a price until you hit the market and test it. One of the ways Amazon experiments with price is via the Kindle Daily Deal. When Amazon puts a book in the Daily Deal, sales tend to increase tremendously and they have found that when price goes back up, they continue to sell very well. This has partly to do with the discoverability that the book has gotten, and all of the new purchases and reviews that push it higher in the charts. This tends to occur only for 4 or 5 days after the Daily Deal is all wrapped up and tends not to occur in the long term. Pricing should not be sacred, publishers should continually test it.