Ebook Best-Seller Prices Jump to Highest Level in Months

killing jesusEbook prices have been on a yo-yo since the summer.

Two months ago, the average price of a best-selling ebook was $8.23. This week, it’s $8.05, but in between it’s been as high as $7.77 and as low as $5.41. And it’s been a roller-coaster ride. We’ve seen changes of nearly $2.00 week-to-week, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but what it means in real-numbers is that the dollar face-value of all the titles in the list (if you were to buy one copy of each ebook) fluctuated $50 week to week.

Why is this happening?

Here are a few possible explanations:

— Publishers are feeling out the new pricing contracts they’re under with retailers. Five of the largest U.S. publishers are all under relatively new contracts with the major retailers, which allows those retailers to discount their ebooks — a shift from the “agency” pricing schemes of the past few years where publishers set the prices, generally higher. Publishers may be experimenting with high and low prices week to week to maximize revenue.

— Retailers are feeling out the new pricing contracts they’re under with publishers. Like publishers, ebook retailers may be experimenting with price going into the first holiday season where they control the prices of most of the best-selling ebooks they carry. They are balancing driving revenues and profits with gaining market-share through favorable price comparisons.

— Self-publishing authors and small publishers that make the list are also experimenting with pricing. Conventional wisdom used to be that the $0.99 price point could propel an ebook up the charts. These days, that idea is less en vogue. Ebooks from self-published authors at price points higher routinely make the list.

— The list may not be big enough to validate tracking price. This isn’t a view that DBW endorses (clearly), but it’s worth mentioning. If one looked at the top 100 ebooks or top 1,000, movements in price would undoubtedly be more subtle IF the market were not moving quickly. Large movements would be detected, too. However, with a smaller sample, we could be observing fluctuations that don’t exist. The reason we don’t believe this to be so is because of the winner-take-all nature of book sales: The top-selling ebooks sell exponentially more copies than those below. So, the top-25 average represents a whole lot of book-buying behavior. Just to give an idea, the top 0.8% of Smashwords titles sell about 50% of the copies, according to a recent analysis from the company. This kind of curve is typical for book sales.

— Luck. As new, big best-sellers rise and fall, as publishers adjust pricing strategy and retailers do the same, blooms of higher-priced titles could jump on and off the list; and the same is true for lower-priced titles.

It may not matter why this is happening. It may only be important to understand that it is happening and adjust pricing strategy accordingly. Time will tell.

Ebook best-sellers from the week ending 10/6:

Top Selling Ebooks: $10 and above
Top Selling Ebooks: $8.00 – $9.99
Top Selling Ebooks: $3.00 – $7.99
Top Selling Ebooks: $0.00 – $2.99

Top 25 Ebook Best-Sellers
Week Ending 10/6/13
Rank* Title Author Publisher  Price**  Change
1 (6) Killing Jesus: A History Bill O’Reilly; Martin Dugard Macmillan  $    7.49 +5
2 (1) Doctor Sleep: A Novel Stephen King Simon & Schuster  $    7.49 -1
3 (2) The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty Penguin Random House  $    5.99 -1
4 (n/a) Gone (Michael Bennett) James Patterson; Michael Ledwidge Hachette  $   11.99 New
5 (3) The Longest Ride Nicholas Sparks Hachette  $   10.99 -2
6 (5) Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel Lee Child Penguin Random House  $   10.99 -1
7 (7) W Is for Wasted (Kinsey Millhone Series #23) Sue Grafton Penguin Random House  $   10.99
8 (n/a) The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism Naoki Higashida Ka Yoshida David Mitchell Penguin Random House  $    9.99 New
9 (n/a) David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Malcolm Gladwell Hachette  $   12.59 New
10 (9) Divergent Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    3.99 -1
11 (13) The Cuckoo’s Calling Robert Galbraith; J. K. Rowling Hachette  $    5.99 +2
12 (n/a) Deadline Sandra Brown Hachette  $   10.99 New
13 (17) The Final Cut (A Brit in the FBI) Catherine Coulter; J. T. Ellison Penguin Random House  $    6.49 +4
14 (11) Thankless in Death J. D. Robb Penguin Random House  $   10.99 -3
15 (12) The Fault in Our Stars John Green Penguin Random House  $    3.99 -3
16 (15) Safe With Me Kristen Proby Self-published  $    3.99 -1
17 (n/a) The Arrangement 10 H.M.  Ward Self-published  $    2.99 New
18 (10) Gone Girl: A Novel Gillian Flynn Penguin Random House  $   10.99 -8
19 (n/a) The Racketeer John Grisham Penguin Random House  $    4.99 New
20 (14) Insurgent (Divergent) Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    6.99 -6
21 (22) The Shining Stephen King Penguin Random House  $    3.99 +1
22 (16) Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three Of The Fifty Shades Trilogy E L James Penguin Random House  $    7.78 -6
23 (n/a) Ender’s Game: 1 (The Ender Quintet) Orson Scott Card Macmillan  $    3.98 New
24 (n/a) Silencing Eve (Eve Duncan) Iris Johansen Macmillan  $   12.59 New
25 (n/a) Command Authority (A Jack Ryan Novel) Tom Clancy; Mark Greaney Penguin Random House  $   11.99 New


* Previous week’s list rank in parentheses.

** Price reflects minimum price across all retailers throughout the week. Price may vary between retailers and may change throughout the week. Contact Iobyte Solutions for more information on ebook pricing. Methodology available here.

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