A price war for book publishers?


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Hachette Book Group

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured an interesting story regarding how one of the country’s largest book publishers is using price to compete against the myriad small and independent publishers who have been using the magical 99 cent price point to attract readers. Is it the beginning of a price war or just a natural reaction to a rapidly changing market?

One of the country’s largest book publishers is offering a short story by one of its most successful authors for the bargain bin price of 99 cents—and the work, which has been available for pre-order for several weeks, has already hit No. 51 on Amazon’s digital best-seller list.

At a time when publishers are grappling with the increasing appetite among digital readers for cheap fare, Grand Central Publishing, a unit of Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group, is selling David Baldacci’s original short story “No Time Left,” which features Frank Becker, an aging assassin with work-life balance issues, for 99 cents. The work will be published May 2.

Other publishers, too, are experimenting with lower prices. In late December, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster publishing arm offered Jennifer Weiner’s short story “The Half Life” for 99 cents. As with “No Time Left,” the title is being sold by a number of online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble Inc.

“It may turn out that there isn’t an absolutely right way to price a book,” said Russell Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content. “If it’s a new writer, you may take a different approach than with a book written by an author with an established fan base. I think you’ll see publishers tailoring their approach to pricing on what’s right on a per book basis.”

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this story is how Lagardere’s SCA Hachette Book Group has resorted to using the charm price of 99 cents–a price point that clearly projects “discount” as opposed to “value”–to sell the work of top author David Baldacci.

Here’s the takeaway: As publishers react to the accelerating trend towards electronic books, they need to stay cognizant that the best pricing strategy remains one that focuses on value.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Lefler
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group -- a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster by providing unique value at the product level: specifically product marketing, pricing, and innovation. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.


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