Amidst Justice Department Lawsuit, Kindle E-Book Prices Rise Sharply

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Data provided by eBook Market View. Note: There was no data available for March 28.

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.

Related: Complete Digital Book World coverage of the DoJ lawsuit from Digital Book Wire

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:

Hachette Settles With DoJ, Admits No Involvement in Conspiracy

Statements From DoJ’s Eric Holder and Sharis Pozen on DoJ’s E-Book Price-Fixing Suit

HarperCollins Settles With DoJ Over Pricing

Lawyer Who Filed Complained Against Apple, Publishers makes Statement on DoJ Suit

Deep Dive Into DoJ Suit

Macmillan CEO John Sargent: ‘Macmillan Did Not Collude’, Macmillan to Fight DoJ Suit

Department of Justice to Make Announcement on ‘Significant’ Antitrust Matter Today

As Macmillan, Apple Prepare for Lawsuit, Justice Department Is Open for Last-Minute Talks

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4 thoughts on “Amidst Justice Department Lawsuit, Kindle E-Book Prices Rise Sharply

  1. What is the average price if you do the same comparison without the “sets”? Given that the Hunger Games movie just came out and A Game of Thrones just returned to HBO, the price comparison might be more accurate if you only compared single-book prices.

    • Good observation, Sharon, but the Game of Thrones bundle has been on the bestseller list consistently since 3/9/12. The Hunger Games Trilogy has been on far longer so neither are impacting this recent rise.

  2. I’m not sure this means anything significant in connection with the DOJ lawsuit. Recently, a few low-priced self-published Kindle books were gaining popularity. Now that everyone seems to be discussing THE HUNGER GAMES and George R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, those books are topping the bestseller lists. The Kindle books for A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series has always been very expensive compared to Kindle self-published books.

  3. Also, self-published KDP Select authors often raise the prices of their own books on Amazon if their books start selling well. Amazon allows KDP Select authors to change the prices of their own books whenever they choose.

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