Faithlife ebooks VS. Kindle ebooks: Pricematch?

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Christopher Bucklin | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, May 12 2020 11:02 AM

So with all this talk of Logos Research editions and Logos Reader editions, and then Faithlife ebooks, I find myself in a bit if a conundrum. We've always been told (and I agree with this) that when it comes to kindle prices on books compared to Logos "research" editions, that the disparity comes largely from the work that goes into all the manual tagging. And I get that. But according to recent discussions about these different "editions", faithlife ebooks don't have any of this manual tagging, rather, they come "right from the publisher." So why then is there often such a large disparity in price between faithlife ebooks and the exact same book on Amazon kindle? I'd like to build my library with some good fiction, and I'd prefer to give my business to Faithlife (as I like having most of my books in the same place), but I just can't justify the price difference on some of these things. Is it possible to get some kind of Amazon kindle price matching when it comes to these Faithlife ebooks (which don't have the features of Logos Research and reader editions)? If not, why not?

Posts 597
J. Remington Bowling | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 11:12 AM

Amazon is likely selling these ebooks at a loss. They can absorb the loss because they are such a big company and because it can hook a person into their entire ecosystem. Although Logos might be able to hook some people into their more limited ecosystem this way, it's probably not enough to be profitable on the whole. 

There can be a benefit(s) to having even a "right from the publisher" book in Logos format though, and that might justify the price difference between that and Kindle. Namely, the book is still integrated with your logos library to some extent (not just search, but notes) and you have less restrictions on devices and copying. 

(I say this *can* be a benefit, not that it necessarily is, because some of the Faithlife ebooks I've purchased have really bad formatting that makes it distracting for me to read.)

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Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 11:54 AM

Actually, I've seen both. Sometimes, Amazon is cheaper, and sometimes FL is cheaper. But I'm generally no longer giving business to Amazon, unless there's no other alternative, or the alternative is so expensive that it can be considered rip-off.

J. Remington Bowling:
Amazon is likely selling these ebooks at a loss.

Now, that is highly unlikely. The standard publishing contract (for direct publishing) is available on the Amazon site. Amazon retains 30% per ebook sale. That remains a positive margin, no matter whether an ebook costs $0.99 or $9.99. According to the same contract, Amazon has the last word on the ebook price.

Hachette's dispute with Amazon has revealed that the contracts with the big publishers have similar conditions. Amazon dictates the prices. If Amazon wants $9.99 as the general upper limit for ebooks, then publishers and authors have to comply. If they don't comply (like Hachette did or rather tried), then Amazon won't show books in the search results any longer.

Amazon clearly abuses their "almost-"monopoly, and forces the loss on the publishers and authors.

Here's some background information on the Hachette dispute. Very interesting to read.

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-did-the-amazon-feud-with-hachette-start-2014-10?international=true&r=US&IR=T

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/25/writers-campaign-amazon-ebook-dispute-us-hachette

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JT (alabama24) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 12:15 PM

Christopher Bucklin:
So why then is there often such a large disparity in price between faithlife ebooks and the exact same book on Amazon kindle?

Jan is right, that it does go both ways sometimes. 

Technically the publishers set the prices in FLEB, but there are different (computer software) systems for how it works, depending upon the publisher. 

Also, the publishers don't always offer deals to FLEB. There is a sense where this is a game for the publishers. Sometimes they massively discount a book one day just to get the book to rise in the rankings. Amazon will then later feature the book at the higher price. 

I typically use eReaderIQ to track ebook prices on Amazon. It alerts me to potential sales. If you see the book discounted on several sites (and not just Amazon), then feel free to create a post in the FLEB forum. If FL sees the post in time and can get permission, they will try and lower the price. 

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Posts 597
J. Remington Bowling | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 12:42 PM

This article is a bit dated, but it indicates that Amazon (at least circa 2013) sells some ebooks at a loss:

"They can sell the title for $9.99 even if their agreement with the publisher stipulates that they must pay the publisher a royalty of more than $9.99. Meaning, Amazon chooses to lose money on many of the books it sells, a fact documented in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) suit (see page 17 of the ruling)."

https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/07/11/a-disastrous-week-for-publishers-authors-and-readers/

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Posts 597
J. Remington Bowling | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 12:50 PM

Looking at the Business Insider article you posted, it looks like the case I linked to has ties to the case 2014 dispute discussed by BI. I know you have a lot of beef with Amazon, but I still think their position actually makes the most sense:

"In June, a letter Amazon wrote to a handful of Hachette authors became public. That letter suggested the writers should be taken out of the crossfire by giving them 100% of e-book profits until the dispute was resolved. Amazon and Hachette would each lose a significant amount of money from this arrangement, theoretically encouraging both parties to come to an agreement more quickly.

Hachette rebuffed Amazon's proposal, stating to the Wall Street Journal that agreeing to these terms would be "suicide." 

...

Amazon also points out that e-books are cheaper to produce than physical books. "With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books," the Amazon Books Team stated in July blog post."

I remember that there was a young person on these forums sometime last year (or the year before?), who didn't have much money and was constantly expressing how hard it was to purchase Logos resources given his physical and financial condition. It's people like that, among millions of others, that Amazon helps by making otherwise prohibitively expensive books (among other items) more accessible.

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Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 12 2020 2:05 PM

I want to be fair to Amazon when evaluating this. My own dispute with them shouldn't really have any impact.

So here's the full court ruling:

https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20130711c57

I need to read that thoroughly. It will increase my understanding of the issue. At first sight, it seems true that Amazon sold ebooks at a loss, and paid more than $9.99 royalties to the publishers.

However, it seems also true that Amazon did that to introduce $9.99 as the new price point for ebooks. The price of $9.99 clearly is the standard price today, not only on Amazon, but also on FLEB, Google Books, Nook etc. whereas it was $12.99 and $14.99 before.

Now that the new price point has been established, I wonder whether Amazon still pays more than $9.99 roaylties to the publishers... Seems unlikely to me. I would rather suspect that royalties dropped pro rata by about 28.5%.

I find it quite concerning that Amazon has the power to unilaterally enforce such a significant price drop. (Imagine the outcry if something like that had been enforced by the government......)

True, expensive books are more accessible now. But that isn't really a good argument. Free download sites also make expensive books more accessible. Borrowing and photocopying books also make them more accessible. But anything that makes books more accessible, causes a loss for the publisher and the author.

We do have a few authors here in the forum. Maybe some of them stumble across this thread. I'd really be interested in their view, as they'd know first hand whether Amazon's price policy has impacted them financially.

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Posts 597
J. Remington Bowling | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 13 2020 1:25 PM

Jan Krohn:
True, expensive books are more accessible now. But that isn't really a good argument. Free download sites also make expensive books more accessible. Borrowing and photocopying books also make them more accessible. But anything that makes books more accessible, causes a loss for the publisher and the author.

That's a fair point. At the same time, putting more money into the hands of publishers and authors isn't per se a good either. A publisher or an author doesn't have value simply because they are a publisher or an author. There's a complicated balance between needing to cater to what a market wants and is willing to pay and trying to cultivate a healthy market - in terms of values and tastes.

This reminds me that I should check out Douthat's latest book, The Decadent Society.  

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Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, May 13 2020 1:45 PM

J. Remington Bowling:
There's a complicated balance between needing to cater to what a market wants and is willing to pay and trying to cultivate a healthy market - in terms of values and tastes.

Yes, and that's to decide and balance out between the suppliers (i.e. publishers and authors) and consumers. It's called supply and demand, or simply put, capitalism. That's a healthy market.

Amazon pushed their price point not only on the Kindle platform, but on all competitors, on all publishers, and on all authors. If it's decided by one mega corporation it's all but balanced.

A similar action done by the government would have been rightly branded as socialism.

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