Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stephen King, Book Pricing, Kindle, and RiverRun

I just received a press release from Amazon announcing that Stephen King’s new novella, Blockade Billy, is available now on Kindle for $7.00.

Since I’ve been following the debate about electronic vs. traditional book pricing, I checked on the Amazon site and found that a hardcover version of the novella is available for pre-order: price, $10.11, shipping date May 25.

So the Kindle version is available five weeks earlier and costs 21% less. And, of course, the book needs shipping. I have Amazon Prime, so the apparent shipping cost is free. If you already have a Kindle, the apparent cost for that is also free. The actual costs are higher of course but difficult to calculate so most users won’t bother.

Just for fun, assume that I buy 36 books in a year (one every ten days), at an Amazon price of $20.00 each. Assuming the same discount as the King novella, I would pay $720 for hardbound books and $570 for Kindle versions. A basic Kindle costs $259, or $86 annually, assuming three year depreciation. Free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime is $79 annually.

So who is the big winner: The Kindle ($656 vs. $849) by almost $200 plus earlier availability.

Who is the big loser? Alas, my favorite local book seller, RiverRun Bookstore, which needs to charge full price: $14.99 for the new novella, almost $1100 for my 36 books.

Sorry Tom, but please keep up the book signings and author readings for us.


  1. Will the iPad kill the Kindle? The cheapest iPad is currently $499, twice the price of the Kindle. But the iPad can do 1000 times more functions than the Kindle apart from downloading and reading books. BUT, does anyone need those extra functions when they already have a smartphone and multiple laptops and computers in the house?

  2. Thanks for the mention, George. Hosting over 100 book events a year is one of the ways we try to compete with online pricing. We cannot compete on price-- it's impossible when Amazon often treats my entire industry as a loss-lead for its other commerce (They regularly price bestsellers cheaper than I can buy them from the publisher). Even trying is foolhardy.

    We continue to exist because enough of our customers enjoy the events, the ambiance, and the browsing we offer in an enjoyable downtown setting. Our community has enough book-lovers who realize for us to keep doing what we do, they have to spend their book allowance here.

    The cost of doing business downtown, in a brick-and-mortar building, with intelligent, capable staff is full price. Anyone checking out my wardrobe knows we are not getting rich doing this!

    Thanks again for the mention, and for your patronage!

    Tom Holbrook
    RiverRun Bookstore

  3. Alex, I definitely do not see the iPad taking over the Kindle at all... well, maybe years down the road, but look at the people you see using the Kindle, many MANY older people. And many older people who likely will not be using an iPad, ever.

    Tom, keep the RiverRun going as it is. Nobody can expect you to match Amazon pricing... in all honesty, not many people can. I've stopped by for a few speakers (mainly because of one of my old college English professors R. Wheeler.) Keep it up! I love the place...and the little cafe next door.

    George, I came here via an article at SeacoastOnline.com. I need to keep up to date while living abroad (Madrid), and it was nice seeing a little niche venture firm in the seacoast. An Internet Entrepreneur myself (hence, living in Madrid), if I need any additional funding or some project down the road, I'll be calling you :P