|The Surprising Design of Market Economies|
By Alex Marshall
"I have a new book out, and it’s been for sale at various prices. Try $9.99, $13.75, $16.17, $18.25, $21.66 and, with tax, $27.18.
Welcome to the tumultuous world of book selling and book pricing, particularly online, where “bots” scurry around virtual bookshelves, checking competitors’ prices. Lawsuits, buyouts and mergers also flourish as publishers and online retailers vie for control.
With the proposed merger between Penguin and Random House, through their corporate overlords -- U.K.-based Pearson Plc (PSON) and Germany’s Bertelsmann SE -- it seems as if the traditional book world is joining forces to stem the tide. Instead, the new behemoth will be carried on the wave with everyone else, as companies large and small adapt to the rise of the e-book and the low and unpredictable prices charged by the dominant e-book and conventional book seller: Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)
When my hardback book became available for “pre-ordering” in May, the Seattle-based retailer sold it for a bit more than $22, a few dollars less than the $25 list price. In July, though, Amazon (AMZN) had lowered the price to $13 and change. A few weeks later, it was more than $18. Then it became $16.50. For any of these, I would have to pay $3.99 shipping unless I had an Amazon prime membership at an annual cost of $79. Still, most of these total prices were substantially below list."