Book price war: sweet or sour?

Ford County by John GrishamUnder the Dome by Stephen KingThe Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Depending on how you look at it, last week was a great week for bargain-hunting book buyers or a disheartening one for authors, booksellers and publishers.

Wal-Mart and Amazon have engaged in a price war for the holiday season’s hardcover bestsellers.

On Thursday, Wal-Mart announced that it would pre-sell 10 hardcovers for $10. Amazon matched the price on the same day, then Friday Wal-Mart lowered to $9 – then again to $8.99 (where the price currently stands).

The price of Stephen King’s Under the Dome is a whopping 74% off the $35 cover price. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna can be bought for a 67% discount. Wal-Mart also offers free shipping for the 10 titles on their list.

In the New York Times, John Grisham’s agent David Gernert expressed his concerns with the low prices:

If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s Ford County for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer’s attention away from emerging writers.

What do The Book Case readers think of the price war? Will you be ordering multiple copies of The Lacuna to give away as gifts, or do you plan on sticking to your local bookseller for a more memorable book-buying experience? Do price cuts like the ones offered by Wal-Mart and Amazon encourage you to buy more books? Would you rather buy a $9 hardcover or a $9.99 e-book?

6 Responses to Book price war: sweet or sour?

  1. WitchyEditor says:

    As a book publishing professional, I’m conflicted. I know why it’s not right but the consumer side of me immediately thought “woo hoo! saving money and now i can buy it for all my friends for christmas.” I personally think $30-$40 for a book is too expensive.

  2. Steph says:

    I agree with WitchyEditor – I love buying books and value the additions to my bookshelf greatly, but given the amount I read, I cannot afford to spend $30 (or more!) on a book. This is why I rarely buy books in hardcover – I’d rather wait for the paperback. However if something I really wanted came out in HB for $10 (which is cheaper than most paperbacks) I would buy it, and would probably buy several other books too. I wish the brick & mortar bookstores more often featured this kind of competitive pricing.

  3. edifanob says:

    I read your post with interest because I live in Germany. For me this kind of price war is unbelievable. In Germany we have a price fixing for books.

    I think this will have an impact on the estimation of writing.

  4. Ti says:

    Personally, I think $30 for a hardback is criminal. I think bestsellers should be cheaper. However, I don’t let cost dictate what I should read next. If my next ‘have to have’ item is not on sale, then so be it.

  5. I wasn’t aware of the price war! No wonder it was so inexpensive! I usually get new released Grisham books from Costco, but I saw that Amazon had their pre-order for $9, so that’s where I went this time! Costco was ~ $12. I was shocked to be honest and literally jumped at the Amazon offer. However, to get free shipping I HAD to purchase more books. :)

  6. Sheri says:

    I too was not aware of the price wars. I usually wait * year for the paperback or shop consignment stores, however if consumers can continue reading new releases from Walmaer for ten dollarsn the stores better order a huge shipment for the pulic.

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