Monday, June 06, 2011

Sunshine on the Amazon

I have a confession: I don't own an eReader. This isn't because I don't like the idea but I've still got lots of non-read paper books to get through. I do read significantly on my iPhone and it is only a matter of time before I succumb. While I have the Kindle and Nook apps on my phone I've not felt compelled to use them. Mrs PND on the other hand has been devouring Kindle books on the iPad since Christmas and here again a confession: I purchased my first Kindle book on her iPad last weekend. Why, because the deals were just too good.

With publishers' participation, Amazon launched their Kindle sunshine deals promotion with 650 deeply discounted eBooks and if you look through the Kindle best seller list and you will see how many of the current top Kindle titles are selling for $.99, $1.99 and $2.99.

What this price promotion will tell publishers will be interesting to see. To me the current list of book titles is reminiscent of the deep back catalog music CD's that have been priced for years at $4-9. It took music publishers a long time to get to discounting pricing but once they did it became a profitable way to reissue many older titles.

Obviously pricing strategy to trade publishers could be thought of as an oxymoron and at the least pricing for eBooks has been fraught with friction between the publishers and retailers. This discounting program will give both retailers and publishers more data points from which to really develop their pricing policies. Book pricing is so often an additive exercise versus one derived from real market data. Unfortunately, what this research might reveal is that pricing in the $2.99 range represents the highest point of the demand bell curve.

As a few commentators have been saying for a long time (myself included), how are publishers going to manage their cost structures when optimal pricing for eBooks is in the $2.99 range. Interestingly, print pricing in the $34.95 range probably never represented the top of the demand bell curve either, but in the eBook world maybe we are starting to see real actionable data for the first time. Whether trade publishers are prepared for world where pricing is much lower (but perhaps demand is much higher) is a different story. In music of course, that industry did not appear to use market data effectively and have continued to hang on to first release pricing of $12 or so. Importantly, the music publishers never considered piracy a component of demand whether book publishers will or not is to be determined.

Here some interesting charting from Laura Hazard Owen at PaidContent:

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