What Does an Ebook Best-Seller Cost? About $6.00

1goldfinch.JPGIf you’re a reader looking at best-seller lists for your next good book, what should you expect to pay for what you eventually decide on buying?

Lately, the answer is “about $6.00.” Taking a look at the ebook best-seller list week after week, the $3.00 to $8.00 price range has become extremely dominant. In this week’s top-ten best-sellers, only one is outside of that range — and it’s priced below $3.00.

The quality and variety of titles at this price range is perhaps unprecedented in publishing — except perhaps for library patrons who are happy not reading the current front-list hits.

Only two titles in the top-25 on the list this week are priced above $10.00; but there is only one title priced below $3.00.

As a result the average price of a best-selling ebook this week is $6.64, up slightly from $6.39 last week.

While the average price of a best-selling ebook has fluctuated greatly throughout the fall, the past several weeks demonstrate that retailers and publishers are no longer afraid to discount even the most popular, most recent titles as deeply as possible.

Ebook best-sellers from the week ending 11/17:

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 11/17/13
Rank* Title Author Publisher  Price**  Change
1 (1) Sycamore Row John Grisham Penguin Random House  $    6.59
2 (3) The Book Thief Markus Zusak Penguin Random House  $    2.90 +1
3 (5) Allegiant Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    6.99 +2
4 (8) Divergent Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    3.99 +4
5 (14) The Goldfinch Donna Tartt Hachette  $    7.64 +9
6 (6) Dark Witch: Book One of The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy Nora Roberts Penguin Random House  $    4.79
7 (4) Ender’s Game: 1 (The Ender Quintet) Orson Scott Card Macmillan  $    3.99 -3
8 (7) The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty Penguin Random House  $    5.99 -1
9 (2) Silent Echo J. R. Rain Amazon  $    4.99 -7
10 (15) The Longest Ride Nicholas Sparks Hachette  $    6.62 +5
11 (n/a) Dust (A Scarpetta Novel) Patricia Cornwell Penguin Random House  $   11.99 New
12 (13) Insurgent (Divergent) Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    6.99 +1
13 (16) Doctor Sleep: A Novel Stephen King Simon & Schuster  $    7.64 +3
14 (10) Killing Jesus: A History Bill O’Reilly; Martin Dugard Macmillan  $   10.91 -4
15 (19) Gone (Michael Bennett) James Patterson; Michael Ledwidge Hachette  $    7.64 +4
16 (18) Gone Girl: A Novel Gillian Flynn Penguin Random House  $    6.99 +2
17 (22) Catching Fire: (The Hunger Games Trilogy – Book 2) Suzanne Collins Scholastic  $    6.99 +5
18 (n/a) Scorched – Book Four – The Surrender Series Melody Anne Gossamer Publishing  $    3.99 New
19 (n/a) Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers David Perlmutter Kristin Loberg Hachette  $    6.62 New
20 (20) Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel Lee Child Penguin Random House  $    9.74
21 (9) Things We Set on Fire Deborah Reed Amazon  $    4.99 -12
22 (n/a) Storm Front (A Virgil Flowers Novel) John Sandford Penguin Random House  $    6.59 New
23 (11) Mine (The REAL series) Katy Evans Simon & Schuster  $    6.87 -12
24 (n/a) David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Malcolm Gladwell Hachette  $    7.64 New
25 (25) The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus Series #4) Rick Riordan Hyperion  $    5.99

* 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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13 thoughts on “What Does an Ebook Best-Seller Cost? About $6.00

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  4. Michael J Sullivan

    Thanks for posting these. I always watch these posts closely. One thing that should be noted though, is it’s not necessarily the publisher who is setting the price. For instance I don’t know if the $2.90 for The Book Thief is the publisher’s doing or Amazon’s because in the \post DOJ\ environment retailers control the price not the publishers. On page 14 (C. Permitted Conduct (Section VI: B) of the DOJ statement it says:

    An e-book retailer that enters an agency agreement with a Settling Defendent under Section VI.B would be permitted to discount the Settling Defendent’s individual e-book titles by varying amounts (for example, some could be \buy one get one free, some could be half off, and others could have no discounts), as long as the total dollar amount spent on discounts or other promotions did not exceed in the aggregate the retailer’s full commission from the Settling Defendant over a one-year period.

    I was speaking with the assistant to Brandon Sanderson who mentioned that it is the marketplaces (Amazon & Apple) who currently have his bestselling The Way of Kings priced at $1.99. His publisher, Tor, is receiving their $6.23 per book, so the publisher is losing $4.30 for every copy sold…and they can sell at a loss as long as they show a profit to Tor as a whole. I would love to know when we see hot selling books at bargain basement prices – who has done the discounting. If the publisher, then both they and the authors are affected. If the retailer – then it is a loss leader move to presumably gain market share.

  5. Michael W. Perry

    The headline “What Does an Ebook Best-Seller Cost?” gets it exactly right. We shouldn’t be discussing what SHOULD ebooks cost. The answer to that is so filled with complexity that there’s no correct answer.

    That’s why I consider Amazon’s policy of slashing royalties for ebooks that sell for over $9.99 ridiculous. Some books deserve to cost more. Amazon shouldn’t rig the game so it earns more (65%) and the author/publisher earn less (35%) simply because a book is more valuable or has a limited audience.

    An illustration–I once had a friend who complained about a skin specialist who charged her $200 for the two minutes of his time that it took to diagnosis and write out a prescription for a skin infection she’d picked up in Latin America. I pointed out to her that she’d already spent more than that going to other doctors who hadn’t solved her problem and that she wasn’t paying this specialist for his time with her but for the time it took him to learn to recognize her infection.

    The same is true of books. To give an example from publishing, I’d love for the next edition of The Chicago Book of Style to be digital or, better still, a well-designed app filled with handy features. I’d be quite willing to pay the print price for it and maybe even a bit more.

    Why? Because the print version has grown so long, the type is now too small for my tired eyes. Also, lookups, typically to 3-4 locations, take too much time. An app that would display all the relevant rules and recommendations would save me time. Even better would be constant update policy to cover the rapidly changing world of digital publishing. Those who offer more should be paid more. That’s only fair.

    And entertainment is something that some books offer. Ebooks in gendres, such as bestselling romance or thriller fiction probably do have a small range over which they should be priced than non-fiction. But there’s no way we can determine what any particular family of ebooks should cost in advance. That depends on too many factors.

    In fact, I deliberately priced the digital version of my latest book to ensure that it’s read by as many people in medicine and as many parents of seriously sick children as possible. Mindshare can be as important a motive as profit. I want nurses considering working in pediatric oncology to know what it involves. And I want parents of children with cancer to understand what issues their child’s hospital staff face. That’s why I spent months working on an ebook that sells for just $2.99.

    That’s also why, contrary to Amazon and the lawyers at the DOJ, it makes no sense to claim price fixing for ebooks. Those who price their books too high will see their sales drop off and be forced to lower them. For bestselling fiction, they’d probably be well-advised to follow their competition and price their ebooks around $6.

    Digital book publishing is perhaps the great free market in human history. The barrier to entry are virtually nil and there’s no economy of scale to favor the giants.

    –Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

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