There’s been a bit of a fuss in recent days over Amazon’s price-matching system in the UK, which saw a number of titles reduced to 20p as a reaction to a price promotion run by Sony. With titles by authors such as Alan Hollinghurst and Peter James having their prices cut, many people have been asking whether the value of ebooks is being eroded.
The 20p ebook flurry on Amazon led some to worry that Amazon was aggressively under-cutting its rivals, until it turned out that there was a more mundane explanation. Sony launched its ebook store earlier this year and has been promoting selected titles – from publishers such as Quercus, Pan Macmillan, and Canongate – at a special low price. Amazon is ‘merely’ price-matching, which it’s entitled to do.
With prices increasingly being determined by algorithms rather than a true estimation of value, it’s clear that the way we think about pricing is going to have to change. Companies have always used lower prices to attract customers, and these strategies certainly have an effect on how those customers perceive value. Rightly or wrongly, many people see an ebook as being essentially free to copy.