Is $14.99 the new $9.99?

Is $14.99 the new $9.99?

“More than 90,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store, including 101 of 112 current New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases, which are $9.99, unless marked otherwise.”
–Amazon press release introducing the Kindle, November 19, 2007

Things have obviously changed a lot in the past nine years. There are now close to five million titles in the USA Kindle store, and we’ve been through the whole Agency Model thing, where the Department of Justice ended up bringing action against publishers and Apple.

As you can see from above, Amazon didn’t promise that every Kindle e-book would be $9.99 or lower, as some people sometimes assert.

Still, for quite some time, the New York Times bestseller hardback equivalents were almost always under $10.

I track these pricing trends every month in my Snapshots , and I’ve noted there a rise in those prices (while prices in the store overall haven’t been going up appreciably…that’s due in part to so many more very low price books being published to the Kindle store).

This was my most report on New York Times bestseller hardback fiction equivalents:

December 1, 2016:

14.99 14.99 14.99 14.99 14.99 13.99 14.99 10.99 14.99 14.99
12.99 14.99 14.99 13.99 13.99 14.99 14.99 13.99 14.99 12.99

Average: $14.39 (+$0.50) 0 titles under $10

Yep…up fifty cents in one month.

Two years ago, that same category of books cost almost $5 less…and the price had dropped more than fifty cents from the preceding month.

December 1, 2014

10.99 12.74 3.25 9.78 4.99 10.99 12.99 6.99 11.84 10.99
10.99 5.00 9.99 9.78 9.09 10.99 10.99 10.99 6.99 10.99

Average: $9.57 (-$0.65) 9 titles under $10

When I looked at

the USA Kindle store e-books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

page this morning, I was struck by how the first books I saw were all $14.99.

It’s important to note that the default sort is not bestselling, and that bestselling isn’t even a sort choice any more. The default is “featured”, which I would guess has some human curation.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I would equate “featured” with what is in the window. Certainly, at this time of year, you’d have some of the brand name authors that would get somebody to walk into the store who maybe wasn’t even planning to buy a book as a gift. “Oh, there’s that John Grisham…so-and-so reads those (or likes the movies).” You would also though, for sure, feature some books on sale, for people who don’t just buy books as gifts once a year.

Here are the first (I don’t want to say “top”) ten featured titles:

  • Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
  • The Whistler by John Grisham
  • No Man’s Land (John Puller Series Book 4) by David Baldacci
  • The Wrong Side of Goodbye (A Harry Bosch Novel) by Michael Connelly
  • Turbo Twenty-Three: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
  • Cross the Line by James Patterson
  • Small Great Things: by Jodi Picoult
  • Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
  • The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

All of those are $14.99 each, except for Sisters One, Two, Three…which is $4.99.

That’s an interesting “anomaly” in this group…published by Amazon, and actually not even published until January 1st. It’s one of the Kindle First picks.

Amazon Prime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

can have one e-book (out of a group of six this month) to own for free.

“Featured” also clearly doesn’t match “bestselling”. Amazon does have a listing of bestselling items in many categories…they just don’t give you that as a sort within the Kindle store.

Here are the

bestselling paid Kindle e-books in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile*)

You have to get down to the tenth title there to find a book listed at over $10, and to the 12th before one of the $14.99 featured titles is there (that Grisham book).

The Sisters book in the first ten featured titles is the number one seller…which may be why it is the one of the Kindle First books to be featured.

Also interesting: the bestselling book at #10, and listed at over $10, is What If? by Randall Munroe. That has been a New York Times bestseller…but you can read it no additional cost as part of either

Prime Reading (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)


Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That strongly suggests to me that those borrows do count in bestseller calculations. The paperback is hardly top ten at this point…it’s ranked 5,879 at time of writing.

Giving the gift of Prime or Kindle Unlimited can be a good way to go (the latter is still 25% off at time of writing for the one-year subscription).

This does seem to relate to me to the different markets of book customers I’ve mentioned before. People who only buy a few books a year, often as gifts (“piece buyers”), may be willing to pay $14.99. I think people who buy (or download, to include freebies) a lot of books find that to be a high price to pay, and they are predominantly affecting the Kindle bestseller rankings.

What do you think? Will you pay a lot more for a book as a gift for someone else than for yourself? Do you prefer to give physical books as gifts? How high will bestseller e-book prices go, and how quickly? How do indie (independent) publishers fit into this picture? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

10 Responses to “Is $14.99 the new $9.99?”

  1. Joan Prout Says:

    my goodness. You’re right. That’s a 50% increase. I really only wait with great expectation for new books from 2 authors: Daniel Silva and Jeffrey Archer. I’ve blown my whole $15/mo. eBook budget on them before. Silva’s 2016 book “Black Widow” finally dropped to under $5 for a couple of days last month (I jumped). I haven’t seen Archer’s new book on sale…

    I can usually stay within my budget by sticking to titles that are free or under $2. I hadn’t noticed that my threshold and the featured books had become the same.

    BTW your blog is the only one I subscribe to that I’m willing to pay for. Keep up the good work. I love my kindle too. (and my fire)


    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joan!

      Thanks for being a subscriber, too! It’s really one of the things which enables me to do this.

      I recommend using

      You can put the books in which you are interested on to a tracker there, and they will send you a free e-mail when they drop in price an amount you specify. They make the money, in part, when you buy through their links, I believe.

      You can also choose to track authors there, so you could just put Silva and Archer there.

  2. eldon Says:

    SWIM has observed that 100% of the NYT bestsellers, together wit nearly all books ever e-published, are available on Usenet. For free. The higher prices go, the more that this becomes a thing.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Eldon!

      Quite likely, those would be infringing on the rights of the author in many cases. There would be a federal crime involved (not in downloading, but in the distribution, as I understand it) and it could be international as well. Even if books were $100, I wouldn’t intentionally aid infringement, and I’m sure many people feel the same way. That suggests to me that there is a cap on how much distribution channels like that will grow. More likely to me is that people would switch to other less expensive alternatives, including public domain (books not under copyright protection) and independently published books (subscription services also have a role to play). My guess is that people are more willing to give up their favorite authors than their morality. Those authors, as well as the traditional publishers, would, I think, find alternative ways to publish books which would enable them to reach a market if there was a devastating reduction in purchases.

      Hopefully, book prices won’t go up enough that we find out which one of us is more right. 🙂

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Giving books as gifts? Not so much — as I think of my 5 sibling’s homes only one brother has any books noticeably around (and he mostly writes rather than reads) — all the others: no books so that you’d notice.

    I wonder what happens to publishing business models (and prices) as the cohorts 3 generations behind me grow up — they’ll never have known a world without smartphones, the internet, PC’s, and eBooks.

    BTW I was 7 before our family got it’s first TV. I’m listening right now to Gene Autry singing Rudolf the Red Nosed reindeer on my Echo. I can remember first listening to it on the radio when it first hit #1 — I was four. I still believed in Santa Claus . . .

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Interesting! I doubt a major gift-giving occasion goes by when we don’t give at least one book. I think, though, that in this description, you aren’t considering e-books as books? You wouldn’t notice e-books around, and you list them with the internet and PC’s. Generally, we are giving e-books. We do like to give Chicka Chicka Boom Boom in hardback as baby gifts, though.

      And just what are you trying to say about Santa Claus? 😉

  4. John AGa Says:

    Because of the current state of ebook prices I employ the following strategies: Daily email alerts from Book Bub, Early Bird and Kindle Daily Deals. Any book I am interested in buying I use I set a price that works for my budget and I wait for an email alert. Finally I make great use of the Overdrive app on my Amazon Fire Tablet to borrow many ebooks from my local library. For me $14.99 is a lost sale for the publisher.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, John!

      My strategies are a tad different:

      First and foremost is

      Kindle Unlimited

      That’s not buying the books, of course…it’s buying access.

      The second thing is my Amazon wish lists. 🙂 I get great gift books. I also get free public domain books to read.

      I rarely actually buy a KDD for myself, but I do buy them for other people. I also bought a bunch of the McFarland books when they were on that great sale…I’m still reading those.

      As to Overdrive…I don’t use it myself. My feeling on that is I can afford the books, and the public library tends to have a big waiting list for popular titles, so I don’t want to make someone else wait. If there were unlimited licenses, I probably would use it.

  5. Man in the Middle Says:

    As the music and video industries have already proven, getting greedy on price ultimately just creates a market for illegal copies.

    I just happily paid $4 each for two known-good sci-fi books that never go on sale, after reading a free copy of the first book in that trilogy, but just as cheerfully refused to even consider a similarly-well-reviewed sci-fi book by a famous author priced at $15.

    Last time I checked, I have over 70 other good-enough sci-fi books awaiting my attention on Kindle Unlimited.

    As a published author myself decades ago, I won’t pirate Ebooks. But neither will I pay 4 or 5 times as much for a book little or no better than one I can read for free on KU.

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