Kindle New York Times bestsellers shockingly up almost $1 a month so far this year

Kindle New York Times bestsellers shockingly up almost $1 a month so far this year

This is not an April Fool’s Day joke, although some Amazon customers may wish it was.

I regularly track prices at Amazon in a monthly Snapshot. In this morning’s

Snapshot: April 1 2014

I noted the continuation of an unsettling trend.

The prices that Amazon sets for the New York Times bestseller hardback fiction equivalents have been on a steep climb this year.

That has not been the case in the past…at least, not until the Agency Model came into play in April of 2010.

Those prices stabilized around $13, and stayed that way until they began to drop again in 2013 (presumably influenced by the publishers dropping the Agency Model in a settlement with the USA Department of Justice over a conspiracy to fix prices).

They continued down, for the most part…until this year.

In the past three months, they have gone up on average $2.91…an average of ninety-seven cents per month.

That’s a remarkable change of direction.

It’s not just the average which has been rising (that could hypothetically be accounted for by a few expensive books).

The number of books in this group priced under $10 has also dropped…again, significantly.

April 1, 2014

11.84 10.99 12.74 10.99 10.99 7.50 10.99 11.99 11.99 11.47
10.99 10.65 6.49 10.99 10.99 11.99 12.99 5.99 15.49 8.99

Average: $10.85 (+$0.59) 3 titles under $10

March 1, 2014

11.99 11.99 7.50 10.91 12.74 10.65 10.65 11.48 6.49 11.47
9.99 8.99 11.99 8.49 12.99 N/A 5.99 10.99 8.99 10.66

Average: $10.26 (+$1.33) 7 titles under $10

February 1, 2014

10.91 7.50 10.65 10.65 6.59 10.65 11.19 8.49 10.91 10.65
5.99 8.99 7.50 11.39 7.50 8.99 10.65 6.49 6.49 6.49

Average: $8.93 (+$0.99) 11 titles under $10

January 1, 2014

6.49 8.49 7.50 6.06 7.99 7.50 6.49 6.49 6.49 8.99
11.39 6.49 6.49 N/A 8.59 8.99 11.39 6.49 11.49 6.99

Average: $7.94 (-$1.06) 16 titles under $10

For comparison, consumers recently got money from a settlement from a different price-fixing case against the publishers (brought by State and some territory Attorneys General).

Here are the amounts of those settlements:

Category Non-Minnesota Minnesota
NY Times Bestsellers $3.17 $3.93
Other Books $0.73 $0.94

At the current rate of increase, the prices for New York Times bestseller hardback fiction equivalents will have risen as much as the settlement amount for bestsellers (outside of Minnesota) by next month.

Overall, Amazon’s prices have not been showing equivalent increases. While there has been some decrease in the number of books priced between one penny and fifty dollars that are under $10, it certainly doesn’t match the increases in the above group:

Percentage of books priced from one penny to $50 that are under ten dollars

March, 2014 (taken April 1, 2014): 87.6% (2,054,771 of 2,346,730)
February, 2014 (taken March 1, 2014): 87.5% (2,012,504 of 2,300,490)
January, 2014 (taken February 1, 2014): 87.7% (1,976,453 of 2,254,215)
December, 2013 (taken January 1, 2014): 88.1% (1,932,395 of 2,193,346)

It’s important to note that, as shown above, close to ninety percent of the books in the one penny to fifty dollar group are still under $10. There are also many free books available from Amazon, and many under $3.

These NYT equivalents are largely going to be from tradpubs (traditional publishers), suggesting that something is happening there which isn’t happening with indies (independent publishers) going through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

This may portend more of a market shift towards the indies, although the data here isn’t enough to conclude that.

New York Times Bestseller hardback fiction equivalents in the USA Kindle store:

20140401 NYT Changes

Month Average
4/1/2014 $10.85
3/1/2014 $10.26
2/1/2014 $8.93
1/1/2014 $7.94
12/1/2013 $9.00
11/1/2013 $10.48
10/1/2013 $10.40
9/1/2013 $10.08
8/1/2013 $11.71
7/1/2013 $11.09
6/1/2013 $12.12
5/1/2013 $12.23
4/1/2013 $12.36
3/1/2013 $12.93
2/1/2013 $12.38
1/1/2013 $12.49
12/1/2012 $13.22
11/1/2012 $13.26
10/1/2012 $12.84
9/1/2012 $12.49
8/1/2012 $13.04
7/1/2012 $13.29
6/1/2012 $12.94
5/1/2012 $13.04
4/1/2012 $13.14

We will keep an eye on this and other trends.

Update: Andrys Basten asked a couple of questions about this, and that helped me deepen this story.

Andrys asked:

“Who’s responsible for setting the NYT recommended pricing? Are those higher now?”

The publishers set the suggested list price on books. I used the “Wayback Machine” at

Archive.org

to pull up an earlier set of NYT fiction hardback bestsellers, to compare.

November 17, 2013

$28.95
$18.00
$30.00
$28.00
$30.00
$27.00
$27.99
$35.00
$29.99
$28.00
Average: $28.29

April 6 (that’s the date on the list that is out now), 2014

$28.00
$26.95
$27.99
$26.95
$28.99
$30.00
$27.95
$27.95
$28.00
$28.00
Average: $28.07

So, the list prices have actually dropped somewhat.

The reason why that would matter is that it would be logical for the Kindle prices to have risen if the hardback prices had also risen. That does not appear to be the case here. It also wouldn’t have to happen: Amazon used to keep “most” bestsellers at $9.99, regardless of the hardback list price.

Note that I am comparing the hardback prices in the two periods, not the suggested digital list price. It is possible that the publishers have raised the digital list price without raising the hardback list price: I have not checked that yet.

Andrys also asked:

“Is Amazon’s pricing of NYT Bestsellers the same as everyone else’s now? (B&N, Kobo et al) or is Amazon’s higher (or lower) than competing booksellers?”

Amazon generally does price matching, so I wouldn’t expect prices to be very different on highly competitive titles like these (I assume customers are less likely to report a lower price on a title with less demand, in part because fewer customers will be seeing it).

Comparing the top ten New York Times fiction hardback bestseller equivalents, I get this:

Kindle NOOK Kobo
$11.84 $11.99 $11.84
$10.99 $10.99 $10.99
$12.74 $12.74 $12.74
$10.99 $10.99 $10.99
$10.99 $11.04 $12.74
$7.50 $14.99 $7.50
$10.99 $10.99 $11.24
$11.99 $11.99 $12.99
$11.99 $14.99 $11.99
$11.47 $11.47 $11.47
$111.49 $122.18 $114.49

Looking  at these, the answer is that Amazon is lower. Kobo was somewhat higher, and Barnes & Noble was significantly higher. In fact, Amazon always had the lowest price (although it was sometimes a two-way or three-way tie).

What do you think? Does this make you more likely to buy independent books (for full disclosure, I am, in a very minor way, an independent publisher…I have published some of my own books in the Kindle store)? Is this a temporary trend? How do you feel about it? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

4 Responses to “Kindle New York Times bestsellers shockingly up almost $1 a month so far this year”

  1. Karin Says:

    Thank you for this information, I had noticed that books were going up a bit, but I didn’t realize by how much.

  2. Tom Semple Says:

    I don’t pay much attention to NYT best sellers so if prices are going up it is not my concern.

    However, I finally got around to hooking up my 200+ item Kindle book wish list to ereaderIQ a couple of weeks ago and have been pleasantly surprised at how many price drops have occurred since then (where the prices seemed more stable in months prior, albeit with more casual monitoring). So maybe Amazon is playing around with the discounting and trying to apply it more broadly.

    I have been tempted to buy in response to a price drop, but the problem for me is not so much saving a couple of bucks, but finding time to work something into my reading ‘rotation’.

  3. Are Kindle bestseller prices rising or falling? | Kindle Nation Daily Says:

    […] Bufo Calvin offered some clear analysis recently on his I Love My Kindle blog, under the headline Kindle New York Times bestsellers shockingly up almost $1 a month so far this year. And if that were the whole story, it would spell bad news for the budget-conscious avid readers […]

  4. What’s happening to Amazon’s core principles? | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Kindle New York Times bestsellers shockingly up almost $1 a month so far this year […]

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