By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid
E-book prices for Amazon’s best-selling e-books have spiked in the past several weeks amidst heated speculation that the U.S. Department of Justice would file a lawsuit against Apple and some of the largest U.S. publishers alleging an e-book price-fixing scheme.
Amazon e-book prices began their ascent on March 24, when the average price among the top 100 best-selling Kindle titles jumped to $7.30 from $6.94, according to data from eBook Market View, a firm that tracks such information. The average price of an e-book on that list steadily rose until hitting a peak of $9.20 on April 5. The average price of a top-100 Kindle e-book was $8.60 yesterday, the most recent day for which the figures are available.
Today, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple and the so-called “agency five” publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster) alleging that they colluded to raise the price of e-books. Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have settled the complaint with the Justice Department.
“This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books,” said Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener of the settlement.
In the weeks leading up to the lawsuit, press reports citing many anonymous sources from within both the Justice Department and the defendants predicted the lawsuit.
The price spike began about two weeks ago. On March 23, when the average price of a Kindle top-100 e-book was $6.94, 43 books on the list were priced under $3 and 27 were priced at $10 or above. On April 5, when the average price on the list hit its $9.20 peak, there were 26 books on the list price under $3 and 42 priced over $10.
Another marked difference in Kindle top-100 books between March 23 and April 5 is the makeup of the publishers whose books populate the list. On March 23, 39 of the books on the list were from publishers who operate under the agency pricing model where publishers set their own prices and Amazon takes a cut of the proceeds (the “agency five” plus Random House, which operates under the agency model but was not named in the Justice Department Lawsuit). By April 5, that number had jumped to 60.
Of the 60 agency-priced books on the list on April 5, only eight were priced below $9.99 and 42 were priced above $10.
Some notable items on the list priced above $10 on April 5 are The Hunger Games Trilogy (No. 8 on the list at $18.99, Scholastic) and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones 4-Book Bundle (No. 28 at $29.99, Random House).
As of April 10, the average price of a Kindle top-100 book is $8.60, there are 57 agency-priced books on the list and the current top ten books being sold on the Kindle are:
1. Catching Fire (The Second Book of The Hunger Games), Scholastic, $7.70
2. Mockingjay (The Final Book of the The Hunger Games), Scholastic, $7.70
3. The Hunger Games, Scholastic, $5.00
4. Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, Random House, $9.99
5. Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, Random House, $9.99
6. Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, Random House, $9.99
7. The Hunger Games Trilogy, Scholastic, $18.99
8. Last Exit in New Jersey, Thomas & Mercer (an Amazon imprint), $2.99
9. On the Island, publisher unknown, $2.99
10. The Lucky One, Hachette, $7.99
Amazon did not respond to request for comment on the average price of its top-100 Kindle e-books before press time.
Write to Jeremy Greenfield
Complete coverage of the Justice Department e-book lawsuit on Digital Book World: