Peter Osnos is an experienced journalist who writes a fascinating monthly column called “The Platform” on journalism and the media for the Century Foundation. His most recent article (14 April 2010) is entitled “Bonanza for Book Buyers”, and reports on all of the diverse ways that people can now obtain a copy of a new book – using the example of The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick (editor of The New Yorker).
Here is an extract from his article:
Last week, Alfred A. Knopf published The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick. Here are the ways you can buy it: The hardcover list price is $29.95 and the CD audio lists at $50. But that is barely the beginning. Amazon sells the printed book for $16.47, the Kindle e-book version for $14.82, the audio CD for $31.50, and the downloadable audio for $34.12. B&N.com has a “member” price for the hardcover of $15.52 and the CD for $36. At Borders.com, the book is $17.97. The Sony Reader e-book is $14.50. A mid-Manhattan Barnes and Noble sells the hardcover at full price. At a nearby Borders, it is discounted to $21, and at Just Books in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, the book is sold at list. Audios there are a “special order.” The new iPad app iBooks doesn’t offer an e-book because Random House, of which Knopf is an imprint, has yet to reach agreement with Apple on terms for sale on its device. But you can get the Kindle edition on an iPad app.
By now you should be persuaded that there are many options and multiple formats.
In key respects, the release of The Bridge has followed a time-honored pattern. It has received admiring reviews in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time, and the Economist, among those I read. The combination of its subject and Remnick’s stature as editor of the New Yorker and author of previously successful books pretty much guarantees a bestseller. Based on its Amazon ranking in the top tier of new titles, initial book sales are strong. But what is distinctive in this publishing story is that the competition for readers is so much more about choices and platforms than it ever was.
I have long been aware that the price of a book is no longer simply “the price” – if you know what I mean. Amongst other things, Amazon has changed the nature of bookselling not only in the USA, but worldwide, including here in Australia. (The rumour is that Amazon is in fact the biggest bookseller in Australia; even ten years ago reportedly it sent 250,000 packages per week here.)
Here is the situation in Australia, based on my short research on the cost (and availability) of The Bridge:
– Borders (Australia) offers the hardcover at A$52.95 (with free delivery if ordered online).
– You can order it from Amazon at Aust$18.36 plus shipping to Australia of A$11.12 shipping and handling for a total of Aus$29.48.
– Booktopia (Australian online bookseller, based in Sydney) offers the hardcover book for $40.50 (free for pickup in Lane Cove West, in Sydney) or with $6.50 shipping – thus total $40.50 or $47.00 with shipping and the CD for $63.50.
– Readings (a variety of Melbourne locations) $31.90 trade paperback edition available 1 May.
– Angus and Robertson has it listed at $44.95 for the hardcover.
– Dymocks is selling the hardcover for $41.95 plus shipping of $5.50.
– Gleebooks (Sydney) offers a paperback edition for $39.99 available May.
– Abbeys Books (Sydney) lists it for $39.99 paperback edition available May.
– Co-op bookshop lists it for $39.99 paperback edition (presumably minus 10% discount for Co-op members).
– The Nile online bookshop offers the hardcover for $48.99 plus shipping.
And the winner (or, rather, cheapest) of them all? The Book Depository, out of the UK: Aus$26.71 (free shipping), almost $3 less than Amazon. Don’t believe me? Go to http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781400043606/The-Bridge to see for yourself.
Of course, I am not the only person to notice this. A July 14, 2009 article by Michael R. James entitled “Parallel This: Top Ten Book Prices Compared” on Crikey.com, did an extensive analysis of best-sellers. He too noted The Book Depository was usually the cheapest of them all.
And if you would like a good listing of Australian booksellers, go to http://www.aussieeducator.org.au/reference/books/booksellers.html