Top Kindle bestsellers have all been on sale recently

Top Kindle bestsellers have all been on sale recently

Price matters.

Well, perhaps more accurately, discounts matter.

That hasn’t always been the conception of selling books. I remember a story years ago that when Robert Half brought up the idea of selling books at a discount (Half later founded the discount chain Crown Books), a professor said that it would never work…because book buyers see them as a prestige item and don’t care about discounts.

It can be true that lowering a price can hurt sales. I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, but I also managed a game store.

We had chess sets from about $10 to about $500. Ten dollar chess sets sold better for $9.99…but a $500 chess set would have sold worse at $499.99.

If you are spending $500 for a chess set, you want the best, you want a work of art…you don’t want to buy a “bargain” item.

Clearly, at Amazon, that idea of books being a prestige item isn’t true for the most popular Kindle books.

It’s worth noting that this is exactly the concern that the tradpubs (traditional publishers) had when Amazon introduced the Kindle and priced many popular books (not all books) at $9.99 or less. They were worried that there would be “price value perception devaluation”…if an e-book is $9.99, is it justified to put a list price (the publisher’s recommended price) of $25 on the same book in hardback? Sure, they have some different benefits, but that’s going to look strange to casual book buyers, who buy most of the books.

When I took a look at the

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

this morning, I expected to see a lot of indies (independently published) books at the top, along with traditionally published books by Amazon and other publishers which are not part of the Big 5.

As I looked at it, something stood out to me: it looked to me like all of the books were “bargains” in the past couple of days.

The top four books are

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

books. Those are published by Amazon, and are Prime members can get one for free each month.

I don’t think those free “sales” count as sales in the bestseller list…and I wouldn’t expect people doing the free downloads to wait until the last day of the month! I do think that the books being featured and getting the number of reviews they get probably do influence the sales. They also normally sell for $4.99, so they are fairly inexpensive.

The next one, though, The Shack, normally sells for $9.99. I used a great Google Chrome extension from eReaderIQ

A great Google Chrome extension for eReaderIQ

to confirm what I remembered: it had just been on sale for $2.99 as part of a sale to which I alerted my readers of “Red Carpet Reads”, books tied into movies.

The next one was George Orwell’s 1984. As I wrote recently

1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free

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

members can read it at no additional cost. I think those borrows probably do count for sales, since the publisher is compensated for them, but I don’t know that for sure. It was last on a significant sale back in December, but I think the free borrows have helped it. Of course, it has also been selling very well in physical book form, which isn’t affected by that…but we can reasonably include it in e-books that you can get below the list price.

Book #7, Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale, is also a KU title.

#8? Another Kindle First title.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood dropped from $12.99 to $2.99 on February 1st and has stayed there…so it is on sale.  That’s #9.

#10 is Cole by Tijan, who is a New York Times bestselling author of romances (according to the product page). It just came out two days ago at $2.99. That’s in line with many other Tijan books, so we can’t say this one is on sale or an introductory low price. It appears to be a Kindle indie. I won’t classify this one as on sale, but compared to many tradpubbed books, it is a bargain.

I had to go down more than 25 books to find a book which wasn’t under $5, in KU, or that had been on sale recently. That one was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty…which is a current high-profile HBO series with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, and Zoë Kravitz.

The trend seems obvious, based on this data.

What do you think? Has customers’ perception of books changed? Is buying them as bargains now acceptable…even preferred? Does that mean the publishers were right…if e-books had been introduced at the same price as p-books, and if Amazon hadn’t started their independent publishing platforms, would the bestsellers at the Kindle store parallel the bestsellers at Amazon in p-books? 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.

4 Responses to “Top Kindle bestsellers have all been on sale recently”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Something wonky seems to be going on at Amazon today. I’ve had trouble streaming music. When I went to check my recent orders to respond to your latest post, Amazon said I hadn’t placed any orders in the last 6 months.

    Anyway, I’ve been happy to see several books from my “price drop” list have dropped into the “bargain” bin. The sad thing is, now that I’ve purchased those books and enjoyed them so much, I’m thinking the price drop was nice, but maybe life is too short to put off buying something I really wanted to read. I could easily have afforded the books before the discount. The only book with a recent price drop I can think of was “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” I offer apologies to the author of the book for using quotation marks instead of italics or underlining, but my previous attempts to use italics left me with my coding showing. I do know the correct way punctuate book titles. I just don’t know how to do it at WordPress. It’s currently $1.99 but I think that will probably go away tonight. It’s probably not a book for everybody, but for this former teacher of grammar, it was wonderful! I’m now looking to buy some of the author’s other works, which I think is the main benefit to making the books available at lower prices. It encourages those of us who like a writer’s style to purchase further works by that author.

    [updated by request]

  2. Man in the Middle Says:

    The big publishers don’t have to like it, but the only way they are still selling me most of their books is by pricing them what I consider fairly. I currently have almost a hundred books queued up to eventually read on Kindle Unlimited, and seem to be adding more Recommended titles faster than I’m finishing the titles already check out.

    To get in front of all that and paid for separately, a book has to be exceptionally good, or impulse item inexpensive. Since Christmas, that’s been happening some. I have about 55 books being tracked by eReaderIQ, along with a dozen authors, and get notified of a sale price on one of them often enough that I just made a donation to help keep eReaderIQ going.

    In one respect, the publishers are still going the wrong direction – raising the prices of books assigned for college reading to astronomical levels, presumably because they think they can get away with doing so in a captive market. But that’s already been tried in both the video and music markets, and merely resulted in piracy. Let’s not go that route again.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      I’m with you on the piece buying…although I buy the less often than you, I think, unless I have gift money. I’d say one exception is that I may still buy something I want to have available for guests. That’s besides gifts for other people, of course.

      The education thing is tricky, since there’s a lot of homogenization of school curricula. If a school basically has to teach a particular book (that might be because a lesson plan which has already been approved exists, for example), that book is under copyright, and there is only publisher, they effectively are a captive market. I’d be interested in evidence of widespread piracy of books in public schools…I’d be much more likely to accept widespread piracy of articles, but entirely books seems less likely. I’m open to the possibility, though.

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