More pricing madness with ebooks

I’ve just been looking for some books to pop on my Sony Reader for a forthcoming trip. I was going to get them from the Overdrive Library – I’m in Hackney, so there’s a small selection of titles available – but the website wasn’t letting me log on.

So, I decided to have a look at the WH Smith site, for a change, rather than Waterstones. It reminded me, once again, why I tend to use Waterstones, which is only mildy annoying to navigate, as opposed to the out and out bonkers train wreck of the WH Smith ebooks site. What’s wrong, for instance, with using sensible words like “Author” when you’re searching? Who on earth thought referring to “Creator” would make things sound more friendly? I could go on at length about the awfulness of the Smiths site, but I’ll save that for another day.

The main point of this is book prices. As I mentioned before, in the face of Amazon’s arrival in the UK, the prices at Waterstones appear to have gone up. They told me that, of course, some of the titles might have been on promotion when I bought them, especially if they were new releases.

Ok, so how about “The Fuller Memorandum” by Charles Stross? That was published in July of this year; it’s £4 at WH Smith or Amazon, and £7.54 at Waterstones.

And the ebook of Peter James’ “Dead Like You”, published in June this year? That has an RRP of £18.99, which is excessive for an eBook however you look at it, in my view. At Waterstones, they think they’re doing you a favour by discounting it to £13.29, while at WH Smith you can just pay £6.46 instead, and £6.44 at Amazon.

Two other titles for my reader, “A Quantum Murder” by Peter F Hamilton, £7.54 at Watersones, £4.00 at the Amazon and WH Smith. Stieg Larsson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is £5.49 at Waterstones, £2.72 at WH Smith, and £2.68 at Amazon.

Total price for these four books? I paid £17.18 at WH Smith; if I had a Kindle, I’d have saved six pence. And if I’d gone to Waterstones, it would have cost me £33.86, or £16.68 more; that’s a 49% saving.

You can argue that competition is healthy, and the great thing about ePub and devices such as the Sony Reader is that you can shop around for your books. You could also say that, when companies like Waterstones charge so much more for books, it’s a damn good thing too.

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