Tracking the Downward Trend on Ebook Prices

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

If you’ve been following along with the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list (as I know many of you are), you’ve probably noticed that over the past 15 months, the prices for best-selling ebooks have generally dropped.

Last year around this time, the average price of a top-25 best selling ebook was near $12.00. Now, it’s closer to $6.00.

ebook best-seller pricing aug 2012 to nov 2013

There are several factors at play here: the U.S. Department of Justice’s win in the ebook price fixing case, which ended up allowing retailers to discount ebooks from all publishers, not just a few; the rise in popularity of self-published ebooks, which are generally priced lower; and more aggressive pricing strategies on back-list hits.

When cheaper front-list titles, cheaper self-published titles, and cheaper back-list titles all hit the best-seller list, it’s clear you’re going to see the kinds of overall decrease in prices we’ve seen.

But I wanted to point out something else in the numbers today: We’ve seen two sustained spikes of higher prices over the past several months and I want to give some thoughts on why.

ebook best-seller pricing aug 2012 to nov 2013 - price spikes

1. The first spike came during the actual price fixing trial held in the Southern District Court of New York in Manhattan. The culprit was titles from big publishers not being discounted as much as they had been over the prior several months. A more cynical person might suggest that retailers refrained from discounting much over that period to make it seem to observers that prices were indeed still high and only one kind of verdict coming out of the trial might change that. But I wouldn’t suggest that because it’s extremely cynical.

2. The second spike came directly after many of the biggest publishers released their big fall titles. Today, many of those titles are deeply discounted, just weeks after release. But in October, when they were first out, many of them were priced above $10.00. For instance, for the best-seller list for the week ending October 27, 13 of the 25 titles were priced above $10. While many of those same titles are on the list this week, less than a month later, only two in the top 25 are priced above $10.

Welcome to front-list, new release deep discounting.

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