Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Price of Amazon

Soulskill posted 1 year,23 days | from the not-quite-enough-for-free-shipping dept.

Books 298

An anonymous reader writes "As physical book stores continue to struggle and disappear, the NY Times puts the changing book industry into perspective as a cost of the existence of Amazon. Further, it's a cost that hasn't been fully paid, as other effects of Amazon's ascendancy have yet to be felt. Quoting: 'One consequence of this shift is that soon no one will know what a book's "real" price is. Price will be determined by demand and perhaps by whim. The first seeds of this can be seen in the Justice Department's suit against the leading publishers, who felt that Amazon was pricing their e-books so low that it threatened their viability. The government accused the publishers of colluding to raise prices in an anti-consumer move. Amazon was not a party to the case, but it emerged the big winner.' Economists, publishers, and readers no longer have confidence that a book will cost the same amount this week as it did the last."

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

And? (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207555)

Just Amazon? Just books?

Amazon set the price, customers judges the value. (4, Insightful)

auric_dude (610172) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207661)

Oscar Wilde might have once said "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Re:And? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207915)

Apple paid for the article. They are still sore they couldn't raise the price of ebooks for everyone. Up yours stevie!

NEWS FLASH (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207559)

This just in: the market isn't the same as it was 50 years ago! Some scientists are saying we need to observe our market differently. Panic ensues.


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207869)

you know what IS the same as it was 50 years ago? a dystopian vision of the future - brought to you by Amazon:


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207917)

"Soulless"? Get bent. Way to bury what may be legitimate concerns under a heap of horseshit.


Zontar The Mindless (9002) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208337)

Way to bury legitimate concerns about Amazon's treatment of their workers as "horseshit".

one word ... (5, Insightful)

meekg (30651) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207569)

... Selection.

Amazon beats any bookstore at finding older books.
Brick and mortar stores are all about displaying 20 copies of the latest shit best-seller, sitting side by side, on the front shelves. No thanks.

Re:one word ... (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207585)

Things you can get from a brick-and-mortar bookstore but not from Amazon include near-universal "Look Inside" and same day delivery.

Re:one word ... (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207609)

Unless you have a kindle, in which case you have same day delivery. And with prime you can borrow a lot of books for free.

Re:one word ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207635)

ebooks on amazon are same day. You don't even have to stand up to get one.

The thing I don't get with the lawsuite, didn't the publishers get payed what they asked for it? If they did, why care if the guys that bought it are selling it for an ammount you think they shouldn't?

I mean, yeah, I could think up some possible scenarios, but none that would really benefit amazon greatly or be very realistic..

Re:one word ... (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207909)

They were selling the books below cost. That is a predatory practice, designed to force other sellers (with less money) out of the market. Then once there was no competition and all their customers were expecting new releases at $10, they could go back to the publishers demand a lower price.

Re:one word ... (5, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208109)

amazon wasn't selling below cost. amazon was selling books at low margin.

The thing is regular bookstores have massive overhead, and old publishers where using that to keep thing artificially inflated. Why does an ebook cost more than a regular book?
You have to pay the writer the same, you have to pay the editor the same, you have to give a publisher their same pie, but you no longer have to pay multiple levels of distribution, shipping, printing, storage, inventory costs. that right there is 20-40% of the price of a book.

Re:one word ... (2)

dk20 (914954) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208167)

As someone who owns a few ebook readers I've always been annoyed about how the ebook costs as much or more then the printed version. Most will argue that the cost of printing and inventory management is overestimated. I think the fee is in some ways a "convenience" charge. I can have a few books on a lightweight device vs the weight and bulk of a real book. You are correct, the royalties etc are fixed regardless of the format but like everything in the "digital" age its about control. The paper version can be lent, donated, or sold. Ebook version? DRM, no real lending ability, etc. The current "line" between the customer rights vs the seller's rights is a little imbalanced. This causes me to read a lot of great material off project gutenberg but thanks to perpetual extensions this will dry up as well.

Re:one word ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44208245)

It's really more of a "gouging" charge than anything else. And until recently, authors often got shafted on ebook sales due to shady contracts.

Re:one word ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207649)

I think same day delivery is almost irrelevant for this sort of thing. If you are waiting for a book you're excited about and just can't wait, you can pre-order and likely get the book as fast or faster. If you aren't, then it's one of those things where you didn't see this book for months or years, then suddenly you need it on the same day? That makes sense I guess if you're completely out of things to read.

However being able to actually look inside the book is a real advantage. I also find browsing jackets easier at a real store -- the computer is better when I already know what I want, but the shelves at a bookstore filter genre just as well as the machine does.

Re:one word ... (1)

ranton (36917) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207787)

I generally buy non-fiction books; usually to learn something new or get a new viewpoint on a topic I am already familiar with. In both cases I find that online reviews are far more helpful than thumbing through a book at the book store. If I don't know much about the topic, how will I know the quality of the book's contents? And if I am looking for a new viewpoint, I am unlikely to give the book an honest chance with a short skim. Online reviews and short snippets that I find with Amazon's "Look Inside" are good enough.

I used to love Borders and Barnes & Noble, but now even if I go to a bookstore I am still on Amazon looking at reviews.

Re:one word ... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207589)

If you want old books, Project Gutenberg [] might be worth your time.

Re:one word ... (1)

Horshu (2754893) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207667)

I would have figured by now that brick and mortar stores would have wised up and started carrying more merchandise. But it's 2013, and time and time again, stores don't have DVDs, books, games, you name it. And their response? "We can order it for you." They still do not seem to understand that I can order it myself and *not* have to go back to the store to pick it up. There is plenty of opportunity to exert some kind of competitive advantage, but for some reason, most places don't seem inclined to do so, giving away more and more customers to Amazon.

Re:one word ... (1)

jbolden (176878) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208077)

Inventory almost never sells. Barnes and Nobles and Borders raised the bar very high for what was inventory. As for games, DVDs, .... shelf space costs a lot. You may be failing to appreciate how expensive it is to stock anything.

Re:one word ... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207773)

Brick and mortar stores are all about displaying 20 copies of the latest shit best-seller, sitting side by side, on the front shelves. No thanks.

If American bookstores are really that bad, they deserve to die.

Re:one word ... (2)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207897)

If American bookstores are really that bad, they deserve to die.

I can tell you that UK bookstores are even worse. I received a Book Token [] a few years and went to Waterstone's to use it.

Of course there was nothing on the shelf worth buying and they flat-out told me, twice, that a book I wanted to order was no longer available. I showed them the Amazon listing on my phone; nope, Amazon must be lying to me.

I gave the voucher awa as a gift and ordered the book on Amazon

Re:one word ... (1)

ozydingo (922211) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208175)

I don't think I'd have a problem with the book stores you're describing succumbing to their obsolescence. I'd really like the book store I go to, however, to stay in business, as I do enjoy browsing the selection they offer. Just pointing out the diversity of options as far as such stores go, I'm sure you already realize the fallacy of generalizing so broadly.

Let us all shed a tear... (4, Insightful)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207575)

... for the buggywhip makers.

Let us all shed a car. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207629)

Re:Let us all shed a tear... (3, Insightful)

mrmeval (662166) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207697)

Slashdot spewing nytimes paid pablum? Will pro-government shills be next?

Re:Let us all shed a tear... (1)

rolfwind (528248) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207769)

Well, I can at least buy a car from many different manufacturers, from a variety of dealerships, and resell the damn thing if I feel like it.

These electronic books, I'm lost. What do I own? Where's the the secondhand market? If I want to buy the 16 year old book, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, a secondhand paperback from amazon is $0.01 plus shipping (media mail should be cheap). If I want to buy it on a kindle, $8.

So, what exactly is the consumer winning beyond some bookshelf space?

Re:Let us all shed a tear... (2, Interesting)

udachny (2454394) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207879)

Insanely low prices that are wonderful for consumers, because that's what they want and that's what the free market delivers? Higher purchasing power, ability to buy more books for less money? Higher purchasing power left after purchasing books for other things people want? Higher standard of living because of higher purchasing power? Easier access to all the world's knowledge and thoughts?

I don't know, what has the free market capitalism done for you?

Re:Let us all shed a tear... (1)

ozydingo (922211) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208207)

Granted I haven't looked at the ebook market for several years, but that's because of my point: the prices were higher than physical books for the selections I was looking for (not even counting used books, which there is a really good selection of at a store by me). Also, for my purpose, the ebooks were a less convenient format.

To each his own, I guess, but I suspect you may be exaggerating a little.

New technology makes old technology obsolete. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207577)

What use is a physical book store when I do not want to buy physical books?

And it's not just physical books and bookstores. I have no local computer shop that carries even 0.01% of the inventory that Amazon and Newegg possess, and the stuff they do have is just purchased from Amazon or Newegg and marked up 30%.

Amazon is just better than shopping locally. Better in terms of selection, price, and availability. Best of all I don't even have to leave my house. Books are delivered instantly to my Kindle and there's a 2 to 5 days wait for physical-goods.

Re:New technology makes old technology obsolete. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207819)

Brick and mortar stores are doing just fine killing themselves on the electronics front.

Just a couple weeks ago i wanted a usb cable. Nothing fancy... a to b. 3 foot.

I wanted it now. So i hit all the stores as i was out that day. they either didn't have it. or in the case of staples... it was $34. thirty four fucking dollars for a 3 foot piece of cable. (not even a monster cable)

After a loud 'FUCK THAT'. I went and got it from newegg. took 2 days total. price. $3 Thats even with state sales tax since newegg has a place in my state.
And places like staples are actually wondering why nobody goes there anymore... they really can't figure it out.

Fail on price? Check. Fail on stock? Check. Fail on service? Check. Fail on convience? Check.

If these phsyical stores wan't to stay open. They're going to have to step up to the plate in a big way on one of those points... But so far... nope. nobody has.

And bookstores are the same. Plus they get to compete with ebooks too. Can i bring my reader to their store and walk out with an ebook loaded? Nope. Fail.

Re:New technology makes old technology obsolete. (3, Interesting)

SiliconSeraph (996818) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207943)

I've worked at a electronics store that shall not be named in my more formative years. The employee price on USB cable was 10% above cost, so about a buck. The cost to customers? Literally $15-20 per cable. And that, by the industry standard, was relatively reasonable. It was an up sell item on computer systems.

Breaking news (5, Interesting)

WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207595)

Economists, publishers, and readers no longer have confidence that a book will cost the same amount this week as it did the last.

Breaking news: prices of goods change based on supply and demand. Film at 11.

Re:Breaking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207615)

Hm, so all ebooks are sold for free then? Because the supply is basically infinite (up to the bandwidth of the internet). Or maybe you're just spouting nonsense.

Re:Breaking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207641)

You forgot that "supply" means the right to steal from the commons, and demand means capacity to pay.

Re:Breaking news (1)

jemmyw (624065) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207685)

That's not the supply. An infinite number of books full of random words wouldn't have much demand.

Re:Breaking news (4, Funny)

Dave Emami (237460) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207807)

That's not the supply. An infinite number of books full of random words wouldn't have much demand.

I dunno. I mean, if the Twilight series can be a bestseller, then...

Re:Breaking news (5, Insightful)

Your.Master (1088569) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207693)

eBook prices are mediated by the supply of good writers, which is not infinite. Same goes for everything digital. Replication costs going to 0 isn't sufficient to remove supply to 0 as long as the cost of the initial thing you're replicating is nonzero.

There's an interesting question about how to economically model that, of course. DRM is one way, extremely unpopular on Slashdot, but certain forms have had market successes (Steam, eBooks). There are others, many of which are more radical departures from the current model -- one is to assume that enough people will have the desire to do art for its own sake to supply worldwide demand and thus rely on "donated" art (free supply) and then infinitesimal replicated costs. Another is product placement, which isn't nearly as common in books as in TV and movies but could be done. Closely related is using the books as a platform to sell things that aren't reproducible, like kid's toys (Transformers and He-Man in book form). There's individual / corporate patronage. There's a model where the government (or a charitable foundation or something) sponsors a fixed amount per year, and distributes books for free and unencumbered by anything save a counter that tracks the number of downloads (or perhaps aggregate time spent reading the book or similar), distributing their money according to these stats. They could be written in less-common languages by companies that control professional high-quality translations, and kickstart a translation effort into English, Spanish, and Chinese. Lots of others.

But there must be some model, whether it's explicit or implicit. Because the supply is restricted.

Re:Breaking news (1)

Dave Emami (237460) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207695)

Hm, so all ebooks are sold for free then? Because the supply is basically infinite (up to the bandwidth of the internet).

Yes and no. You seem to be assuming that there's some precise formula, but supply/demand is a tendency, not a formula. Further, the cost to the publisher of sending you a copy of an ebook is not just the cost of pushing electrons around. There's also the the author's royalties and the amortized costs of running the company in general. Market pressure will push the price towards zero plus those costs, and those upstream costs which can flex (such as the royalties) will also get downward pressure.

What you're doing is equivalent to calculating the cost of your groceries based only on how much it costs to pay the cashier putting them into your bags. It doesn't matter that the groceries are tangible and the ebooks aren't. There are still upstream costs that the person giving you the stuff has to pay.

Re:Breaking news (1)

LordLucless (582312) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207829)

The supply isn't infinite, because the ability to reproduce is limited by law. If copyright were repealed, then yes, ebooks would be for free. That may in turn cause the supply of new ebooks to shrink, as authors stop writing if they can't make a profit. The future of ebooks would depend on a different business model.

Re:Breaking news (1)

dnaumov (453672) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207911)

Hm, so all ebooks are sold for free then? Because the supply is basically infinite (up to the bandwidth of the internet).

If you intend to actually obey the law, supply is not infinite, supply is set by the publishers.

Re:Breaking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207731)

If you've ever left things in your Amazon shopping cart for a long time, you'd know the price changes aren't based on supply and demand -- or even promoted sales. I have over 200 items in my cart and it's a curious, curious ride the prices of different items take.

Re:Breaking news (0, Flamebait)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207811)

Breaking news - you're a clueless git who no more understands the situation than my keyboard does. But that doesn't stop you from typing platitudes, or equally clueless moderators from modding you (or many others of similar ilk) in this discussion) up.

Amazon isn't pricing books based on supply and demand - they're pricing them based on perceived value to the individual customer. I like non fiction submarine books (for example), Amazon figures this out... and I'll never see a sale price on a submarine book again. I ordered the DVD of A Certain Scientific Railgun last week, and today the manga was a higher price than it was two weeks ago. Etc... etc...

Re:Breaking news (0)

WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207881)

That's precisely how supply and demand works. If you like a certain genre of books, then your demand for that genre is greater than the average consumer; Amazon figures this out and raises the price because their algorithm knows that you're willing to pay the higher price.

Don't like it? Vote with your dollar and don't shop at Amazon. Flinging ad hominem at me certainly won't change the situation.

Re:Breaking news (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207993)

Someone should make a browser plug-in that detects this kind of behaviour. It could anonymously submit every price seen to a central database and then display the lowest price anyone was offered in the last week.

If you see other people getting lower prices you can sometimes get them for yourself by switching browser and IP address. Make sure you are not logged in with the other browser and Amazon will assume you are someone else and offer a difference price, at which point you can add it to your basket and log it to lock it down. You will be asked to log in but even after doing so the price won't change.

Next time I find a product priced lower when Amazon can't tell it's me browser I'm going to try first adding it to my basket when logged in and then adding a second copy in the other browser when I'm not logged in. It will be interested to see what happens when Amazon tries to merge both baskets.

Re:Breaking news (2)

cartman (18204) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208285)

Breaking news - you're a clueless git who no more understands the situation than my keyboard does. But that doesn't stop you from typing platitudes,

Speaking of clueless...

I like non fiction submarine books (for example), Amazon figures this out... and I'll never see a sale price on a submarine book again. I ordered the DVD of A Certain Scientific Railgun last week, and today the manga was a higher price than it was two weeks ago.

Nope. Amazon's prices fluctuate often, based upon supply and demand. You saw that, and then you wrongly inferred that they were discriminating against you, and charging you higher prices based upon your prior behavior.

you're a clueless git who no more understands the situation than my keyboard does

You may consider growing up before posting.

Re:Breaking news (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44208121)

I would love to see that film star Liam Neeson.

Seeing him wreck some bankers just sends chills down my back, the good kind of chills.

When the shift hits the fan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207605)

Price will be determined by demand and perhaps by whim

Well, gosh darn it all to heck! Price determined by demand? What's next? Sliced bread?

Welcome to the new publishing reality. Maybe when 'leading publishers' stop trying to push ebooks at paper copy prices, the demand will return in their favour. Until then, they are free to end their miserable unviable lives.

Re:When the shift hits the fan. (0)

gnupun (752725) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207795)

Well, gosh darn it all to heck! Price determined by demand? What's next? Sliced bread?

Don't you mean price determined by monopoly power? Amazon has enough market share power to dictate low prices for ebooks that benefit themselves (eg: more kindle reader sales) and the consumers but at the cost of shafting both the publishers and authors.

Collusion or not, the publisher and author are the ones who should set the prices, not the book retailer, consumers or courts.

If Amazon continues forcing authors to sell at low prices, you'll end up with a large quantity of books that are very short and with low quality of writing.

Re:When the shift hits the fan. (5, Insightful)

damnbunni (1215350) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207875)

Y'know, when Baen Books started selling e-books through Amazon, they had to -raise- the $6.99 prices of books sold through their own store - because Amazon would price-match their store, otherwise.

As a result of this, Baen increased author royalties on e-books by 25%, so more of the customer's money is going to the author.

So I'm guessing Amazon's $9.99 default price isn't hurting fiction authors much unless their publisher's an asshole.

(Though really, buying them through Amazon instead of direct from Baen is silly - Baen gives you your books in Kindle's .mobi, Nook/everyone else's epub, EBookwise, Microsoft .LIT, Sony Digital Reader, HTML, and as a .rtf file.)

You're right that the publisher and author should set the price of the ebook - they should set the WHOLESALE price, that Amazon - or whoever else - pays them for the book.

If Amazon wants to sell books below cost as a loss leader for Kindle sales, that's up to Amazon. The publisher should take their stated wholesale price and be happy with it.

That's actually how it USED to work before the 'agency pricing model' came in.

You know what else happened when the 'agency pricing model' came in?

Most of the indie e-bookstores closed.

Great job letting the publishers set prices, there. With publisher-set pricing, there was nothing else for the smaller stores left to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple over.

The one I used had a 'book club' program, that offered discounts with multiple purchases. Suddenly, they couldn't do that any more.

And they only avoided going under entirely by getting bought out by B&N.

So, in short: Fuck the 'agency pricing' model. And fuck the publishers using it.

Set a wholesale price for the thing, sell it wholesale, put a 'suggested retail' price on it, and let the retail channel decide what to actually sell it for.

You know, like almost every other product on the market.

Re:When the shift hits the fan. (1)

nospam007 (722110) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207949)

" If Amazon continues forcing authors to sell at low prices, you'll end up with a large quantity of books that are very short and with low quality of writing."

I doubt that. I have 130,000 high quality free^h^h^h^h books in my collection and none of them came from Amazon.
That's enough for several lifetimes.

I love bricks and mortar bookstores, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207607)

I'm in New Zealand, and a few years ago I tried to locally source an American title.

The first bookshop chain I contacted told me they didn't have it, probably couldn't get it, and even if they could and did, it would cost NZ$250 and take three months to arrive.

The second bookshop chain I contacted told me they didn't have it, probably couldn't get it, and even if they could and did, it would cost NZ$350 and take six months to arrive.

The third bookshop chain I contacted told me they didn't have it, couldn't get it, then hung up on me.

So I paid cash to my neighbour who then let me use her credit card to buy it online from the US publisher. That was on a Saturday afternoon. The book was on my doorstep when I got home from work on Tuesday. Total cost including priority shipping was around NZ$103, plus change.

As I said, I do love bricks and mortar bookshops, but, like film and so many other things, their day is done, since they can't or won't compete with the Internet.

Re:I love bricks and mortar bookstores, but... (1)

Cenan (1892902) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208043)

their day is done, since they can't or won't compete with the Internet.

I suspect they can't unless their business model devolves into "sure, let me Amazon that for you", or start offering services that the digital retailers still aren't good at, like good advice or recommendations. The place where book stores have dropped the ball is their costumer service, and the one place where Amazon is still way behind. All Amazon can do is rely on generic algorithms to offer a "what others are also buying" kind of recommendation, and in no way a match for an actual human being's experience.

If book stores wish to survive, the shopping experience needs to resemble a specialty store more than a pop culture outlet, they need to be able to offer insightful advice. This is true of any physical retail store, you need to beat the digital retailers where they can't compete yet: recommendation algorithms and intelligence.

Does this mean anything? (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207613)

I read the summary three times, but I'm still not sure how it relates to reality. For example, this sentence:

'One consequence of this shift is that soon no one will know what a book's "real" price is. Price will be determined by demand and perhaps by whim.

How is that a consequence? Haven't books always been priced based on demand and whim? They don't think the price of a $200 textbook is primarily in the print materials, do they?

Re:Does this mean anything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207737)

There's a difference between raising the prices because something sells out faster than you an stock it and a store automatically increasing prices on products you view multiple times while researching something you're thinking of buying. Nothing says impulse buy more than the cost of the item will go up next time you visit unless you buy now. Don't worry, you can always cancel your order.*

*Most people don't cancel orders or return items, even when defective.

In the past some companies have shown higher prices to people browsing from Apple computers. Luckily this 'consumer enhancement' is still limited to a few areas.

Re:Does this mean anything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207809)

They're just afraid that big publishers won't be able to roll the PRNG anymore to determine a book's "real price".

Re:Does this mean anything? (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207843)

I read the summary three times, but I'm still not sure how it relates to reality.

Sadly, neither the summary or the article makes the situation clear.

How is that a consequence? Haven't books always been priced based on demand and whim? They don't think the price of a $200 textbook is primarily in the print materials, do they?

No, in print books have pretty much never been priced on demand or whim. For an individual book, the price remains the same for all customers at a brick and mortar store. Amazon prices them by perceived value to an individual customer - and even then, they'll vary significantly from day-to-day.
I like non fiction submarine books (for example), Amazon has figured this out... and I haven't seen a sale price on one for years.. (But my wife does on her account if she remembers to check "this is a gift".) I ordered the DVD of A Certain Scientific Railgun last week, and today the manga was a higher price than it was two weeks ago. The UNIX book (just as a generic example) that you bought for for $29.99 last week? Amazon might offer it to me for $20.00 and eligible for free shipping because I've never bought a UNIX book. Etc... etc...
It has nothing to do with supply and demand, and everything to do with maximizing Amazon's profit margin at the expense of the consumer.

Re:Does this mean anything? (1)

udachny (2454394) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207905)

It has everything to do with supply and demand, the supply is basically free to produce, but the overall costs are not 0, so when the books and other items are priced by Amazon, they are priced based on your ability and willingness to pay, which is exactly the demand part and it creates the most efficient market. Why shouldn't a book be almost free to somebody who has no interest in it if the cost of production is already factored in? Why should the book be sold at a huge discount to a person who derives enough value from it to pay the full price? Basically this is as perfect a market place as a single store can offer.

Re:Does this mean anything? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207945)

You know, there are other online bookstores besides Amazon. If the price differences matter to you, shop there.

Re:Does this mean anything? (1, Interesting)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207941)

Prices of books have in many places been set by price controls and monopolistic practices. Of course, the consequences have been a massive government handout for publishers and making books less available to people who weren't rich. This is particularly true in Europe. Even in a monopoly, prices are set by demand, but they are generally set much higher than in a competitive market.

It's nice to see this system undermined by technology and progress. There is now hope that the cozy and corrupt relationship between publishers and their cronies in government will finally end.

Re:Does this mean anything? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208009)

What TFS means is that books will be priced differently for each individual. If the online shop thinks you will pay more then me for a given book they will try to charge you extra, something that physical shops can't do.

Amazon isn't the only company that does it. I remember a few years back there was a story about iPhone users being charged more by certain websites.

Linus T. knew long ago (1)

quax (19371) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207625)

The marginal cost of 'manufacturing' and hence the long term price for any piece of information is $0.

Re:Linus T. knew long ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207821)

Is the time of the author worth nothing? Is the creating and writing of the book a part of the 'manufacturing' process?

I have read many books with my Kindle. (0, Flamebait)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207633)

I have read many books with my Kindle, the large DX e-paper version.

I have read so many out of copyright books, I still don't know what to do with myself. They continue in sites like Project Gutenberg, or any decent search engine with terms found through Wikipedia.

My collection is 100% legit, 100% copyright free in my county, and 100% better than whatever I'm missing out on.

I'm that asshole, the guy who thinks he's the representative, but in reality is the outlier, the person who has no business posting because it does not affect him/her.

But Amazon won a case against Big Ink. They are suddenly the bad guy?

Oh yes, this report was funded by big ink. I invite you to search for DAVID STREITFELD, "He won a 2012 "Best in Business" award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers for his New York Times stories on fake online reviews." 2012, who the shit gave credence to reviews last year? Calling Rick Romero, who gives a shit about online reviews?

"Streitfeld was one of a team of New York Times reporters who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting," - Rick Romero

Sorry, that was Wikipedia, not Romero, but WTF does that mean?

Amazon will sell what you will buy. At the price you will pay. That's capitalism. Are the United States not a capitalistic enterprise? If not, maybe Socialist? Maybe something else?

Pricing is proprietary information. That's capitalistic rhetoric.

One of the few publishers willing to speak his mind about Amazon is Dennis Loy Johnson, proprietor of the Melville House, one of the most interesting new presses since its founding in 2001. Melville had an immediate hit last month with a rediscovered article by James Agee, âoeCotton Tenants.â But as sales slow in the days since publication, Amazon is charging more for it.

Holy shit batman. Someone REPRINTS an article, discovers sales are slow, and INCREASES the price? What the fuck would you do? Put your fist in your Aunt Bea? Hell no, you would charge market price, just like AMAZON FUCKING DID.

The price-tracking site camelcamelcamel shows âoeCotton Tenants,â which lists for $24.95, moving from $16 on Amazon shortly after publication to $19.79 last week before falling back slightly to the current $19.23. If you were a few weeks late getting the news about âoeCotton Tenants,â you paid 20 percent more

20 PERCENT, thati's Nazi pricing. Oh, $19, which I round up to $20, up to $24.95, which I round down to $20? That's a savings of, wait,





Oh, cheaper than the bookstore by a price of WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU CHARGE FOR SOMETHING THAT IS OUT OF PRINT?

God dammit, I could have printed 30 novels instead of replying to you.

Boo hoo hoo (0)

shentino (1139071) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207639)

Cry me a river, buggy whip makers.

This is what capitalism and competition is all about.

I'm not sure I see the problem. (2)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207651)

I thought the whole point was that when books are in demand, prices increase, and as things fall out of favour, price decreases? Why should a book that few people want cost as much next week as it did this week? Compete, make a book people want to read, people will pay for it.

Re:I'm not sure I see the problem. (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208283)

The problem they are discussing, as pointed out by other people, is that when you look up a book on Amazon that is related to books you have already purchased, it is priced higher than when someone who has never purchased books related to that subject or genre looks it up (even if both of you look for the book at the same time).

more of this "fairness" nonsense (4, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207669)

One consequence of this shift is that soon no one will know what a book’s “real” price is. Price will be determined by demand and perhaps by whim.

Price is supposed to be set by demand. And if it is set wrong on a whim, people don't buy it.

“Discounting, and especially inconsistent or shifting discounting, really messes with a publisher’s ability to price a book fairly and accurately to its cost,” he added.

If by "fairly" you mean that bloated, overpriced, arrogant publishing houses with excessive internal costs can't force their customers to pay inflated prices anymore, then yes, they can't price "fairly" anymore.

As far as I'm concerned, the revolution in the book market isn't done until every single big 20th century publisher is out of businesses, and most authors sell and market their books themselves through convenient and inexpensive online services.

How selfish do you want to be? (3, Insightful)

drunkenoafoffofb3ta (1262668) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207953)

I think the point of the article is about: Do people want the changes that are happening to the main street to continue?

From a purely consumer standpoint, sure, cheaper is better. And as long as there's no development of monopolies or other devious practices, that's fine for consumers.

But. Stores closing down in your town leads to decrepit town centres; decaying cities aren't nice and have other, unpleasant consequences. Massive corporate tax avoidance (partly why Amazon has such great prices in the UK?) actually is a bad thing too -- for infrastructure, and for your own personal tax bill. So yes, these changes have a cost -- to society. But, damn, that USB memory/ LED monitor/ Android tablet is cheaper there. Yay!

Re:How selfish do you want to be? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44208139)

Jokes on you, I'm self-sufficient.

I can grow my own android tablets.

Re:more of this "fairness" nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44208045)

All of your arguments can be applied to YOUR WAGE.

80-90% of the world are paid much less than you, your employer has ample cause to reduce your wage to about 1/10th of what it is now or less.

its a global market

Welcome to the rest of the world (1)

boundary (1226600) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207673)

I don't know what the real price of a book is right now. Living in New Zealand, where book prices seem to range from the absurd to the absolutely fucking absurd, I feel that the NZ book buying community are already living in the world you describe. NZD50 isn't unusual for some trashy novel. Price already seems determined by whim. There are so few bookshops in NZ (everyone's too busy watching rugby to care about that literary shit) that it's actually embarrassing to walk into a bookshop and ask for a title that you can't find on the shelf, let alone falling over when they tell you how much it's going to set you back. Really fucking tragic.

Re:Welcome to the rest of the world (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207885)

I live in Australia, and about the same story here. But price fixing days and RRP are coming to an end. has been a lifesaver.
One mystery is postage costs. Heavy American printed books, ordered from UK fly to UK and posted from UK.
Same book posted from .au costs 500% more to UK, than UK posted to .au. Needless to say .au physical book stores cannot
compete with extortionate domestic postage rates.
Meanwhile, half of the Indian 457 visa workers have 'english' Indian only textbook editions. this also cuts poor bloody book merchants.

Many years ago - A local bookseller ordered heaps of the new harry potter novel. Was told he had the 'lowest price'. On release day, Big-W (Walmart lookalike) had it for 1/2 price, and Borders a bit more than that. So he RMA'ed all his books, and bought out Big-W.
This distributor was cross, and was politely told as Big-W have a 40% mark up, he had better buy smarter.

4 years on, the lesson has not been learnt, - Borders and Collins have shriveled, and distributors and publishers wonder why.
BTW pulls up 500% more titles lots of times.

Re:Welcome to the rest of the world (0)

loufoque (1400831) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207937)

The prices of goods is decided by whatever buyers are willing to pay.

Re:Welcome to the rest of the world (1)

boundary (1226600) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208107)

Bullshit. Some of us have no choice.

Re:Welcome to the rest of the world (2)

loufoque (1400831) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208165)

I honestly don't see the link with your message and what you replied to.

The price of goods is decided what the market of buyers at large is willing to pay, not what every single buyer is willing to pay.

I for one, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207677)

look forward to the inevitable price rises once Amazon reaches its intended monopoly status.


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207691)

The comment equating the price/value of a book with its manufacturing cost, and assigning that cost a value of zero, misses the larger point. Publishers are de facto agents for writers -- middle men who used to provide the service of editing and marketing and distributing a writer's creation. We can argue about the value of this service, but it did have value, both to the reader and the writer. The new system of direct access is transitional and of limited utility. Most Ebooks published outside the traditional publishing system are barely readable and their value as a result is minimal -- which is reflected in the minimal prices they command. Well-edited and curated books will command higher prices because the service provided by the editing and curating (call this part it marketing and distribution) will have value to both readers and writers -- separating the crap from the slightly-less crappy product, and promoting the less-crappy product to a wider audience. Because traditional publishers are committed to the traditional print-oriented system, they may not be capable of adjusting to the new reality -- but that hardly means the new reality will cease to have a place for editing and curating. The problem comes when the culture that supports this process either ceases to exist or is denigrated by ignorant consumers who equate cheap and free with some kind of idealized open-access nirvana. The truth is, quality costs. It may not cost as much as traditional publishers believe it should because they have traditional overhead systems to support, but it will cost something, and for the sake of writers and readers both, we should hope the transitional to the new model of curated publishing happens quickly and smoothly, for the benefit of all involved.


0123456 (636235) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207727)

Editors have caused as much harm as help to trade-published authors, and, if you believe you need one, you can buy their services for a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. Only the big-selling authors get any kind of marketing and publicity beyond putting it in a catalog to send to book stores, so that's irrelevant to the majority of writers.

If publishers are really, actually, needed as middle-men between writers and readers, they'll continue to exist. If they're not, they'll vanish. So what's the problem?

No confidence in the price? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207701)

Does that mean no more confidence men in the supply chain?

Well, anyway, just apply Vegas/Wall Street rules and bet long or short

I Buy Food from Amazon (1)

Saethan (2725367) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207713)

Seriously, anybody else buy food through them? They frickin' sell everything. And I own a Kindle, so sue me. Like another poster mentioned, why would I go to a physical store to buy something that is not physical? Since I got my Kindle I have not bought a single physical book. Why would I? The battery life on this thing is pretty amazing....

Ecnomics 101 (1)

J'raxis (248192) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207721)

One consequence of this shift is that soon no one will know what a book's "real" price is. Price will be determined by demand ...

That is the "real" price. Basic economics [] . Any other price than one set by demand is artificial (as in "price-fixing"). If prices are dropping due to the advent of Amazon, there are a number of possible causes: Decreasing marginal cost of creating each book (especially since the marginal cost of an e-book is probably less than a few millionths of a cent), supply increasing faster than demand, more complete/accurate information traversing the market thus more quickly setting an accurate price than before, or a combination of some or all these factors.

In other words, the price mechanism is working exactly as expected. The poor obsolescent publishers and book stores don't like it because they can't keep up, but this is exactly how a free market is supposed to work. There's no story here, other than to report that yet another group of buggy-whip makers are bemoaning their own demise and trying to contrive a reason it's a bad thing.

Where's the problem? (1)

lostmongoose (1094523) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207735)

"Economists, publishers, and readers no longer have confidence that a book will cost the same amount this week as it did the last."

Not sure I see the problem here. Books are like any other good. They're "true" market value is only as high as the target market is willing to pay. This is going to shift frequently. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Quality and available will play the same role with books, as with anything else.

Amazon not profitable (1)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207763)

The other amazing thing in this is Amazon is not very profitable. They have been reporting losses, not gain.

When expenses exceed income, shareholders have a loss negative earnings per share

Amazon has been declining, and yet the analysts have awarded them this amazingly high valuation, as if they were the next Microsoft or the next Walmart.

Guess what though... revenue doesn't mean squat, if your expenses are higher than what you make, and you therefore aren't able to convert that revenue into profits.

Re:Amazon not profitable (1)

loufoque (1400831) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208041)

Being profitable means spending money on taxes. It's more interesting to put spend on the extra money on R&D.

Re:Amazon not profitable (1)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208279)

That's not what the trend in their financials shows is happening though. Cash from operating activities has been decreasing, free cash flow declined dramatically over the past year, they are borrowing an enormous amount of money -- getting more and more money by taking out more and more debt.

And they wind up with a negative EPS and declining margins, which essentially means that they are moving towards a trend of destroying shareholder value.

They are not dying, but the picture shows essentially that they are distressed, and probably not that big a threat to the brick and mortar stores in the long run. Definitely not a $130 billion company. Possibly a $40 billion company.

Unless they take some steps such as major cutbacks or raising prices...

so...what about walmart, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207771)

They've pretty much disrupted box stores, too. What if Walmart figures out how to "do" to-home delivery? they've got the logistical and pricing chops to do it if they put their minds to it, but the to-home delivery aspect could be too alien. Then they should buy Schwann's, who does do that part well.

Walmart+Schwann's would be good good in most rural areas.

Wait a minute (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207777)

Let me get this straight. Based on the "struggle" and "disappear" links in the summary, I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for Barnes & Noble as well as Borders. Is that correct?

It wasn't all that long ago people lamented how these mega-stores - specifically Barnes & Noble and Borders - were killing all the little independent book shops. Their response was they delivered what the consumer wanted at lower prices. Well, it looks like the shoe is on the other foot now! I actually felt bad about the independent book sellers (a few of whom have managed to adapt and do good business)... but not these guys. If they can't compete in the modern marketplace, that's their problem.

Re:Wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207817)

How do you compete against a near monopoly that undercuts you to sell at a loss?

Re:Wait a minute (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207957)

How do you compete against a near monopoly that undercuts you to sell at a loss?

You wait for them to go out of business or until they raise their prices; one or the other has to happen sooner or later.

Re:Wait a minute (1)

ozydingo (922211) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208255)

Ok, so who's the adventurous entrepreneur you think should start the business that will fail as soon as Amazon undercuts their prices, for a few months, then jacks the price back up? I think there's more validity to the remark about lack of real competition than you give credit.

Re:Wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44208335)

Actually, based on the rhetorical frame of the story, you are probably 'supposed' to view Amazon as imposing externalities on society and then create taxes to compensate for them. Of course, there are other rhetorical frames; for instance, maybe the lower and uncertain costs of books represent a reduction in the rent-seeking behaviors of publishers and bookstores, who stood astride the flow of information using government-granted monopolies to strangle education and communication while extracting profits.

Its not so much price fixing (1)

Justpin (2974855) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207899)

Its the overheads which kill bricks and mortar book stores. Commercial rents will set you back at least £1000 a week, a commercial rent in a town in a big shopping centre? £1000 a day is not unheard of. Then you have business rates ontop of that. Then utilities. Then staff/ Then councils short on money will raise the parking charges and extend the hours. Manchester is about £7 an hour to park and you now have to pay from 6am to 9pm. Ontop of this stores stock bog all, so they say oh we can order it in for you.. Which makes highstreet book shopping (real paper or not) utterly pointless.

my books cost (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44207929)

US$0.25 for paperbacks and US$0.50 to $1 at local flea markets, thrift stores, or hospice sale shops...

or better yet, free to read at my local library...

My experience with Amazon (1)

dnaumov (453672) | 1 year,23 days | (#44207933)

I live in Finland, where Amazon does not have a "local" presence and I've sometimes ordered stuff from UK, Germany and US Amazon. You'd think that international shipping would kill the idea, but you would be very mistaken regarding how bad the local retailers (and sometimes even local online stores) are.

I recently purchased a Mac Mini and wanted a DP-miniDP cable to connect it to my monitor. I looked the cable up in various finnish retail and online stores. Not a single retail store I visited had it, not even one. I looked up the local online stores and the cable + postage within 3-4 business days was 35-40 euro. I ended up ordering it from UK Amazon, with express international delivery (I literally had it delivered to my workplace in Finland by DHL in 2 business days) and paid 26 euro total.

The clueless retailers can die in a fire for all I care.

The Real Cost of a Book (1)

nashv (1479253) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208199)

If you are talking about the content, i.e, the information in a book, there has NEVER been a 'real cost of the book'. It has always been, like for any information resource, dictated by how valuable the information is to a certain set of people. What value a publisher sells the book is determined by the highest price the publisher think he can sell the book at. A little thing called the 'free market' principle that seems to be lost on TFA.

If you are talking about the physical object (paper, binding etc.) , yes, e-books have reduced that cost and transferred it to electricity and bandwidth requirements. The real cost of medium through which the information is obtained has been diminished. That's one of the things progress is supposed to do. Suggesting that it is a problem is one of the moronic statements in TFA.

Amazon and Transformers (1)

Common Joe (2807741) | 1 year,23 days | (#44208221)

Here's an anecdotal story. I've been wanting to buy the CD version of the Transformers (2007) Score for years now. I check off and on for for years and the price fluctuates but never to a reasonable level. I even wrote Amazon once, but nothing.

I once heard the price is partially based on how much others are selling it for and I've heard of spirals where Amazon bases it on Place A which bases their price on Place B which bases their price on Amazon and the price spiral upwards into the thousands of dollars for even things like obscure books. Who knows if it's true, but it's an interesting story.

Yes, I could buy the MP3s for less, but I like having the physical media that I can rip that hasn't been compressed with a lossy algorithm. One day I'll probably buy the MP3s. Besides, it's harder to accuse me of pirating if I can produce the physical products.

Today's price for Transformers? Here you go. [] As of this writing, it was $59.99.

Oh... and say what you will about the movie (which did suck), but the second Transformers has a really good score.

bla bla bla (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,23 days | (#44208299)

quote "no one will know what a book's "real" price is. Price will be determined by demand".

This is no different from the pre amazon situation. Nobody has ever payed the "real" price, except for those who commissioned a book for their own singular use.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>