Earlier this month Random House UK reached an agreement to sell books via Apple’s iBooks store.
As with all other publishers selling via Apple, Random House sets the price for each title under an arrangement known as the agency pricing model which sees the retailer take a fixed percentage of the sale price.
Agency pricing, currently under investigation by the OFT, has been hugely controversial with some book buyers and the widespread claim among consumers is that books priced this way are often much more expensive then they would be if retailers were allowed to set their own prices.
But it seems that’s not always the case.
Browsing iBooks for titles I’d previously bought from Kobo but might someday re-buy to have in iBooks alongside all my newer purchases I noticed something odd about the price of Frederick Forsyth’s masterpiece The Day Of The Jackal.
Kobo currently offer the book at £6.59, listed as a 21% (£1.75) saving off a list price of £8.34. Amazon.co.uk’s Kindle store offers the book at £4.82, a 31% (£2.17) saving off the “Digital List price” of £6.99.
Yet the ‘price set by the publisher’ iBooks version is selling for £5.49 – £1.10 less than Kobo and just 67p more than the Kindle edition.
John Grisham’s The Runaway Jury (an even better book than it is film) is selling for £5.49 in iBooks versus £6.59 in Kobo (a 21% or £1.75 saving on their list price of £8.34) and £4.94 from Amazon.co.uk which gives a Digital List Price of £7.99.
I picked a few more titles at random (no pun intended) with the following results:
James Patterson’s 9th Judgement is £4.99 in iBooks, £3.40 for Kindle (£7.99 list) and £3.41 on Kobo (£8.34 list). But while iBooks is dearer for this title, the author’s Tick Tock is £9.99 on iBooks, £8.99 on Kindle and £8.99 on Kobo.
This isn’t an exhaustive check and there are plenty of cases where the non-agency retailers are considerably cheaper than iBooks, but it may be worth noting those instances where they’re not and reflecting on whether claims that agency always leads to significantly higher prices are actually justified.