Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
For two years, we’ve been tracking the average price of a top 25 best-selling ebook:
Before I talk about the latest batch of data that we can add to our posts on the subject*, let me just tell you briefly how we get this data and why I think it has some meaning.
Every week, we assemble the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list, ranking the top 25 best-selling ebooks in the U.S. We do this by looking at a range of ebook retailers and their own best-seller lists (our full methodology can be found here). When we do this, unlike any other best-seller list out there, we publish the lowest price that was found on each of the retailers we look at for each ebook on the list. To get our top 25 ebook average, we simply average the prices. Voila: the chart above.
And here is what the average tells us—and it’s the only thing it tells us—a rough estimate of the prices readers are seeing when they look at a best-seller list, which reflects what most readers are buying. It’s a way of taking the temperature of what ebooks cost and what people think they cost.
In a way, this data tells the story of what’s been happening in the world of ebooks and digital publishing. Early high points on the list reflect the end of the era of agency pricing, when most ebooks on the list were priced above $10. The first spike in the middle of the chart was during the ebook price-fixing trial in the summer of 2013, when for three weeks, higher-priced titles came to dominate the list for a short period with no explanation that we could discern. The second spike was from a holiday season that saw some big releases hit the top of the list with big prices to match.
And now we can see the latest trend of price increases over the past few months, caused by Kindle First, Kindle Unlimited and our reaction to them:
Kindle First is a program that allows readers to buy titles at a discounted rate before their release date; Prime members can download one Kindle First ebook a month for free. Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s subscription ebook service in which readers can read all they want from a catalog of around 600,000 titles for $9.99.
Sales from both were being counted in the Kindle ebook best-seller list, which has a big influence on our best-seller list. We worked with Amazon on both occasions to try to figure out how to continue including titles without changing the nature of our list, which is about traditional ebook retail—what readers are putting down money for for each download. In each case, we mutually agreed that it wasn’t possible. You can read about our efforts with Kindle First here and Kindle Unlimited here.
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The side effects of these moves can be seen in the charts above. The average price of a best-selling ebook has steadily risen since the beginning of the year. Many lower-priced self-published titles and titles from Amazon Publishing that were making the list are no longer on it, lifting the average price.
We are continuing to try to figure out how to measure the economic activity represented by ebook subscription services and programs like Kindle First, which are certainly worth measuring. Stay tuned.
* For our other, earlier charts and analysis: