To the $9.99 boycott kindle people

At the moment, there are 5 books priced over $9.99 in the Top 100 bestsellers in the Kindle Store.  Just 3 of which are in the Top 75.

Amazon made a very bold move by coming in with $9.99 prices and deserves a lot of credit.

However, were it not for all of you $9.99 boycotters, we would have had 50, and not 5, out of the top 100 books above $9.99.

Here’s why.

Publishers were trying desperately to kill $9.99

It benefits Amazon and customers to have $9.99 prices. However, Publishers were worried about -

  1. Having to rethink and reorganize their companies for this scary new model. 
  2. Cannibalizing hard cover sales.
  3. Losing their status as the gate keepers of the book industry.

Publishers were trying a simple sabotage tactic (since they get 50% or so of the list price from Amazon) -

When Amazon started discounting books from $24 or so down to $9.99, Publishers raised the list price for ebooks to $27 or more to raise the discounted prices to $14.

Amazon is stuck because they’re already paying publishers more than they’re getting from customers. If Publishers keep increasing the list price it forces Amazon to raise the price.

Suddenly, the $9.99 prices began to disappear.

The $9.99 Boycott as the Savior

The $9.99 boycott, and more importantly, spreading the word, tagging books, blogging about it, and raising the issue meant -

  1. Lots of people became aware of the issue.  
  2. People began to understand that $9.99 is a fair price and authors are not going to starve because of it.  
  3. The boycott spread.
  4. Sales for books above $9.99 were much lower.

Initially, everyone was a skeptic and there were even people who were happy to blast the $9.99 boycotters - it’s never going to work. do you really think customers can decide prices? i’m still going to buy books at $14. No way you can pull it off.

Well, the $9.99 boycott has worked.  

For the last 6+ weeks, the number of books over $9.99 in the bestseller charts have consistently been in the 4-10 range.

That’s one big sign. There are two additional BIG signs the $9.99 boycott has worked.

Sony, B&N both matching $9.99

  1. Barnes & Noble is beginning to match $9.99 on bestsellers in both its B&N eBookstore and at eReader.com.
  2. Sony announced just today that they’ll match $9.99 on new releases and bestsellers.

So, not only have the $9.99 boycotters ensured Kindle Store prices stay at $9.99, they (along with kindle owners buying in to the $9.99 boycott) have also ensured that a whole industry has no choice but to go with $9.99.

Such a huge contrast from where we were headed a few months ago -

Amazon was stuck as Publishers were raising list prices.  

Every other ebook store had high prices.

Google was promising it would let Publishers set prices.

Basically, $9.99 seemed ready to face its demise.

Were it not for you, $9.99 boycotters, we would now be living in a $14 world.

Edge Cases and Outliers

There’ll be a lot of people who’ll be quick to point out -

  1. When the moon was half full in the month of the jaguar there were 14 books in the Top 100 list. That means $9.99 is not working.
  2. The book I want is not at $9.99 – that means $9.99 is not working.  
  3. A few people won’t wait and that means $9.99 can never work.
  4. Publisher X has said they’ll never release ebooks at $9.99, or release it 6 months later.

These are all edge cases. There’s little point worrying about the above $9.99 publishers. 

Any publisher who doesn’t embrace $9.99 or delays reducing prices to $9.99 will be competing with -

  1. Publishers who do match $9.99 and don’t delay the ebook release.  
  2. Independent Authors and Smaller Publishers selling books for $1 to $5.
  3. Decline in interest as time passes.

And lots of other factors that will reduce ebook sales greatly.

In the next 6 months we have -

  1. New Sonys in end August. 
  2. The rumored Apple reading device in September.
  3. Plastic Logic eReader in Jan 2010.
  4. Kindle 3, probably before Christmas 2009.  
  5. Kindle DX 2 sometime in the next 6 months.

That’s going to keep growing the ebook market. Costs to the publishers who fight $9.99 will increase more and more.

We’re beyond the point of no return.

Congratulations! $9.99 boycott people, you’ve won.  

You now face the twin pleasures of -

  1. Basking in the glow of the $9.99 victory.  
  2. Getting ready for the ‘Delayed eBook Release’ madness that publishers are getting ready to unleash.  

eReader embraces Kindle Store pricing

When Barnes & Noble bought Fictionwise they got two ebook stores as potential weapons against the Kindle Store – Fictionwise.com and eReader.com.

The eReader.com division of Barnes & Noble today sent out an email (scoop courtesy JKOntheRun) to members announcing some drastic price cuts -

  1. No eBook Priced over $12.95. 
  2. All New York Times Bestsellers for $9.95. 
  3. All new ebooks for $9.95 or less.  
  4. They also have 15% rewards on purchases.

This basically matches the Kindle Store with the additional benefit of eReader’s $12.95 price limit and the 15% reward on purchases.  

Really good for Kindle Owners and readers in general

Its good for Kindle Owners because Amazon can’t get complacent on pricing.

Its really good for Kindle Owners and book readers because -

  1. Its implicit support for Amazon’s $9.99 price-point.  
  2. It testitifes to the huge advantage pricing was giving Amazon.
  3. At a time when big companies like Google were talking about letting Publishers determine prices, eReader.com realizes the ground reality (since its already selling ebooks) and is forced to price books low.

It really is a big positive that multiple stores now have lower ebook prices. In effect, Barnes and Noble and Amazon are both supporting the $9.99 price point.

Is this a threat to Amazon and the Kindle Store?

  1. Well, the 15% rewards scheme is a bit scary. However, 15% isn’t enough to take the hassle of using your PC for downloads.
  2. The $12.95 upper price limit could become a rallying point for claims that Amazon is pro-publisher.
  3. One big plus for Amazon is it doesn’t become the isolated example of a retailer standing up against Publishers’ demands for higher prices. Less chance Publishers can boycott it if Barnes and Noble are jumping in too.
  4. Amazon could gets undercut by companies to the point that it can’t cash in on the Kindle’s success. 
  5. Alternatives to the Kindle will be able to compete better because they can use eReader.com’s books.

 Overall, it isn’t much of a threat. However, if more and more companies start jumping in at $9.99 book prices, Amazon will be forced to come up with other competitive advantages.

Author cuts price to $9.99, hits #3 in Kindle Store

Another example of the power of the $9.99 price point – we really should give kudos to the Kindle owners who started the $9.99 boycott.

Michael Connelly was one of the authors who had a > $9.99 priced book in the Top 100 in the Kindle Store. I’d specifically mentioned that his book’s > $9.99 pricing was killing his sales rank -

Finally, the 6 authors with books priced higher than $9.99 are – Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laurell K. Hamilton, Eric Braverman, Jeff Hertzberg, and Matthew B. Crawford. Unfortunate that they are missing out on sales and potential readers because of their (or their publishers) pricing strategy.

 Someone must be listening because the price was reduced to $9.99. And what happened?

Changing to a reasonable $9.99 results in #3 spot

Changing to a reasonable $9.99 results in #3 spot

There’s your proof right there of the power of $9.99. The Scarecrow is now at the #3 spot in the Kindle Store. As more and more publishers see this, hopefully, they will get the message.  

$9.99 Price Point is here to stay

Lots of people i.e. those given to despondency and those representing publishers, would have you believe that your effort doesn’t matter. That $9.99 prices aren’t possible or that you can’t influence Kindle edition prices. That’s hogwash -

  1. Take a look at how The Scarecrow jumped to the #3 spot as soon as it was reduced to $9.99.
  2. Take a look at how zero out of the top 25 are books priced higher than $9.99.

Publishers try to release books at > $9.99 and hoodwink us into buying. You’ll see lots of books in the New Releases section that are over 10 dollars.

When after a week or two, they see that sales aren’t as good as they ought to be, then they realize their mistake and change the prices to $9.99. These are the same publishers that are working with Google to sell ebooks for the same price as hardcover books. So, its really important to make a stand at $9.99.

Making a stand at $9.99

Personally, I’ve bought one book over $9.99. However, from now on, I’m not going to buy ANY book over $9.99, even if I need it for work (the only exception are books whose physical editions cost well over $25 thereby justifying a >$10 kindle edition price).

The $9.99 boycott is working and its setting the stage for a future where kindle edition books are reasonably priced.

The great > $9.99 boycott

When the > $9.99 tag and boycott started it was easy to be skeptical (I was).  Today, though, its a different story. The fact that, inspite of publishers pushing higher prices, only 6 out of the Top 100 Bestsellers on the Kindle Store are higher than $9.99 says a ton about how successful the boycott has been.

People are still skeptical because they see higher priced books every day. They should look at prices for books that are selling and be encouraged.

Is the >$9.99 boycott really working?

Yes, it is. Just a month ago there were a bunch of > $9.99 bestsellers – the lower number today (just 6 out of 100), in the face of more and more publishers hiking up prices, shows that we’re on the right track.

Take a look at the original $9.99 boycott discussion on Amazon – people are always skeptical that end customers can affect change. Despite being in the Internet Era where consumers have all the power, lots of people are caught up in past times when companies made money off of customer ignorance.

We are in a completely different era and we choose – There are only 6 books above $9.99 in the Top 100 – that’s the strongest sign that the >$9.99 boycott is working.

There are additional success stories -

After communicating with Variance publishing about our boycott a few months ago, they responded back to us and lowered their digital list prices w/in a few days as promised- to 9.99.
Amazon has lowered some of the prices even more -to 7.99.

Is $9.99 reasonable for Kindle Editions?

Publishers will argue (and lie) that they get only 35% of Kindle prices. Actually, they get 35% of the digital list price (which is usually $24). They get 80-90% of the $9.99 Amazon price.

Also, if self-published authors get 35%, its pretty probable that publishers get more like 40-50%. Amaozn is subsidizing lower prices and often losing money. Mr. Bezos admitted (indirectly) that Kindle isn’t making profits yet.

All the greedy Amazon stories are out of place. Amazon’s focus is on changing the industry and inventing the future. That’s why Mr. Bezos has invested in Blue Origin and the Kindle. If money was all on his mind he’d be buying bank assets at pennies on the dollar like Wall Street currently is.

Note: Even if Amazon is only doing it for profits, you have to realize that $9.99 books instead of $25 helps books and helps us. Once $9.99 is set, there’s no turning back – ever.  

Here are my posts explaining what book costs are, and what kindle edition books ought to cost - these clearly show $9.99 is a sustainable price point. No publisher is every going to release their numbers. If they had integrity they’d just release the numbers and close the debate – why don’t they?

Will Publishers still release > $9.99 books?

Yes, because its a win-win situation for publishers. They either get even larger profits or they kill off the ebooks market.

As opposed to you and me (the people who read books), and Amazon (who are trying really hard to get Kindle and ebooks to succeed), Publishers have no interest in progress as they are companies optimized for a closed, slow, ancient business model.

This confused article in Slate highlights how publishers etc. are missing COMPLETELY that its about books and the people who read books.

If we keep boycotting books priced over $9.99 Publishers will have no choice but to reduce prices.

The $9.99 Boycott is about the Future of Books

We might despair at times to see more books at ridiculous price points, and there might be times when a book priced higher than $9.99 seems particularly tempting.

However, this is not only a ‘books should be cheaper’ issue, its also about the future of books and bringing books and the book publishing industry into the 21st century. Books have been dying out because television, the internet, music and movies are improving and using newer and newer technology. While books are still being printed on paper we have High Definition TV and movies, music on iPods, and the mobile Internet.

To preserve their profits and what they think is the right way to do things Publishers are trying to kill all advances in book technology. Until the Kindle arrived, they were winning and while this was maintaining the status quo and their profits, it was killing the industry.

Kindle and ebooks are the first significant advance in book technology in a very long time. 35% of sales for books available in print and kindle editions is of the kindle edition. $9.99 books are going to revitalize reading and the books industry. EBooks are growing at 70%-80% rates while the rest of the industry is dying. Publishers, for their own selfish, greedy purposes, are willing to let the industry die.  

The Kindle and other ereading technology means that, unlike newspapers, books will not have to face a slow, painful death. Your support of low priced ebooks and ereading technology is saving the future of books - it might kill current publishers, however it will definitely save books for your kids and grandkids.

We are on the cusp of a world where the ability to publish books and read books is truly democratized.

In 10 years, when we live in such a world, we can look back and say – Yes, we helped create this with our > $9.99 boycott.

Power of $9.99 – Kindle bestseller prices

Quick pricing analysis of Kindle Store Book Bestsellers shows some encouraging signs -

In the Top 25 Kindle Books:

  1. Number of Free Books:                   6, including #s 1, 3, 4, 10, 12, 19.
  2. Number of Books below $9.99:     5, including #s 2, 8, 13, 15, 18.
  3. Number of books at $9.99:           12, including #s 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22, 24, 25.
  4. Number of books over $9.99:        2, including #s 15, 18.

Its encouraging to see lots of books at or below $9.99. Also, there are enough free books to supplement your purchases. Its telling that just 2 books priced over $9.99 are in the top 25.

Looking at the top 100 Kindle Book bestsellers:

  1. Number of Free Books:                27 (6 public domain).
  2. Number of Books below $9.99:  29.
  3. Number of books at $9.99:          38.
  4. Number of books over $9.99:       6.

Wow – so only 6 books breaking the $9.99 barrier are in the top 100. Its also interesting to see how popular free books are, and that very few of them are public domain.

This admittedly small sample size analysis seems to hint -

  1. Pricing a book higher than $9.99 is suicide.  
  2. Pricing a book less than $9.99 can help sales (two of the twilight series are priced around $5.59 and are both in the top 25). 
  3. Free works as a strategy to get mindshare.
  4. The demand for free current books is, not suprisingly, much higher than free public domain books.

Finally, the 6 authors with books priced higher than $9.99 are – Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laurell K. Hamilton, Eric Braverman, Jeff Hertzberg, and Matthew B. Crawford. Unfortunate that they are missing out on sales and potential readers because of their (or their publishers) pricing strategy.

Update: As far as Kindle Blog bestsellers, 10 of the top 25, and 37 of the top 100 are $1.99 blogs (#1 is the free amazon daily blog, and rest are $0.99 subscriptions).

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