Back in September I recommended (albeit in a sort of snotty tone) Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Shortly after that, I found out that it’s not just a book, it’s a series. I’ve been reading it but I’ve stopped because I think Amazon’s robbing me.

[Update:] As many commenters have pointed out, the price difference seems to be because I’m in Canada. A few points on that:

  • The un-signed-in browser is also coming to Amazon from Canada, and Amazon knows that.

  • I paid $10.36 on September 9th for Sandman Slim, which is now $1.15.

  • I paid $9.35 for Kill the Dead, which is now $4.65

  • I paid $4.63 for Aloha from Hell, which is (gasp!) now $4.63. Win!

  • Canadian taxes do not add 50% to the price of a book.

  • Canadian dollars are worth US$1.02 last time I looked.

  • My Nexus 7 doesn’t even have cellular radio, so the cost to Amazon of delivering a few hundred K over the Internet is probably not even measurable.

  • The hardcover price doesn’t seem to vary by country.

  • Devil Said Bang is $15.17 on Amazon, $12.99 at both Google Books and Kobo.

So maybe it’s a little unclear exactly who is doing the dirty work here, but it’s still obviously true that when I shop that Amazon, I’m being ripped off.

[End of update: Back to your regularly-scheduled programming.]

I realized that I’d enjoyed Slim’s company and the dark sparkle of the conversation so much that I’d ignore the silly back story and cartoon theology and give the sequels a try. I’m glad I did, because they’re terrific fun.

But then I noticed people talking about how the book was on sale cheap, like for 99¢; I’d paid a lot more.

It seems like immediately after I read each volume, its price miraculously drops to nothing. There’s one left unread, Devil Said Bang. I wonder how much it costs? Here are two listings: The first in a browser where I’m logged in, the second where I’m a stranger.

Devil Said Bang for $15.17
· · ·
Devil Said Bang for $9.48

Maybe there’s an explanation. I don’t care what it is, it’s not good enough and it’s not reasonable and I’m not paying that price and maybe you shouldn’t be either.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Jesse Vincent (Oct 17 2012, at 20:49)

The added "international" in the wireless delivery description suggests that it's some idiotic cross-border pricing nonsense. But who knows :/

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From: Brendan (Oct 17 2012, at 20:50)

It's curious that when logged in the message says price was sent by the publisher. What could that mean?

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From: Kyle (Oct 17 2012, at 20:52)

One includes applicable taxes, the other doesn't...

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From: Marc Olson (Oct 17 2012, at 21:03)

Just a hunch, but it looks like the first one is priced for outside the US, which would make sense for your account.

"free international wireless delivery"

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From: Dave (Oct 17 2012, at 21:14)

This is not new for Amazon. I remember reading articles years ago about how Amazon would vary the price of products based on your spending patterns.

And I think it will get much worse over time if Amazon remains dominant in online book sales like it already is.

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From: Evan Jacobs (Oct 17 2012, at 21:19)

The difference between the two screen shots is subtle but the first one has a line that says "The price was set by the publisher". Still can't explain why you would see one while recognized and the other while unrecognized.

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From: Dan (Oct 17 2012, at 21:23)

Note the "Price set by publisher" on one but not the other. I am guessing that when you aren't logged in it is offering the American version, where the recent legal settlement forbade that arrangement. When you log in, Amazon goes "Canada? Legal settlement doesn't apply there, we gotta let the publisher shaft you."

Just a guess.

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From: RPM (Oct 17 2012, at 21:41)

It's almost evocative of the way Google prices AdWords.

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From: Joe Crawford (Oct 17 2012, at 21:46)

Online Prices Not Created Equal by Craig Bicknell, September 7, 2000 detailing this as a practice Amazon has used for a very long time.

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From: Drew (Oct 17 2012, at 21:47)

I agree with Dan; I think this is the publisher's price vs Amazon's price. You'll also notice that the price switches columns in the chart; for the cheap one, it's an "Amazon Price", but for the expensive one it's a "New from" price.

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From: Reed (Oct 17 2012, at 22:01)

I think I recall reading somewhere a while back they add a kick in the crotch surcharge if you have the "free" international wireless upload.

So far I only buy drm-free ebooks. Seems like the way to go and there really is a lot out there.

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From: Sven Sorrell (Oct 17 2012, at 22:24)

I think the main difference here is "includes applicable taxes" on the logged-in version. I don't think Amazon is trying to screw you, but maybe the Canadian government is.

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From: Thad McIlroy (Oct 17 2012, at 23:25)

I get the exact same prices, also in Vancouver Canada. I checked Barnes & Noble and Kobo and they each offer the ebook for exactly $12.99.

I'm surely not going to apologize for Amazon, but it seems like this is falling more into the technical error category rather than the "Amazon is evil" category, our usual default for a company that has certainly earned that reputation.

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From: Ben (Oct 17 2012, at 23:32)

Dan is correct. This is not Amazon's choice, it is the publisher's, as indicated by the text in your images. The higher price is set by the publisher because they are not bound by the recent ebook pricing settlement in the US. The price for US delivery, which is assumed when you are on the US site and not logged in, is _not_ set by the publisher, hence that text isn't there. It is instead set by Amazon, far below the price the publisher prefers.

You're right, this is a sad state of affairs. The publishers, like Harper Collins, are to blame, not Amazon.

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From: Ale (Oct 18 2012, at 00:25)

Amazon offers to me both prices, the cheapest indicated as Kindle edition and the expensive one as Kindle edition, August, 28, 2012.

Apparently there are two editions and, clicking on the different entries they also show different covers. I wonder if the text is the same.

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From: Mic Edwards (Oct 18 2012, at 01:01)

It looks like there are two issues ... one is the international and taxes distinction.

Regarding the $0.99 pricing of Sandman Slim, I saw the following when I just looked at it on the Amazon store (i don't actually know what currency my store is in right now) ...

https://skitch.com/e-wibbly/e2x3q/sandman-slim-a-novel-richard-kadrey-amazon.com-kindle-store

There are two Kindle editions of Sandman Slim ... one at $10 and one at $1 ... strange ...

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From: Nick (Oct 18 2012, at 01:01)

I get the 9.48 price whether signed in or not.

Since you're looking at Amazon-US rather than Amazon-Canada, I assume you're shopping from the U.S. When you're not signed in, Amazon apparently gives you US ebook price (which it sets, post-settlement) but when you sign in, it apparently gives you Canada price (which publisher controls, since US settlement doesn't apply in Canada). Interesting that Kindle price is set according to customer's home address - or address where Kindle is registered - rather than customer's physical address at time of ordering (assuming my assumptions are correct).

After writing the above, I went to Amazon-Canada and found that the book isn't even listed in a Kindle edition. Don't know whether that's because I'm in the US or it's really not available in Canada.

Anyway, the price variations probably reflect geographical differences rather than customer-based pricing. Cold comfort.

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From: Jordan Merrick (Oct 18 2012, at 03:08)

I'm not sure that there's anything underhanded going on here.

First of all, Amazon US will default to US pricing and tax when not logged in, but will adjust if an int’l customer logs in. For example, I am a UK citizen so when go to Amazon US (without logging in) I see the price you see when not logged in.

However, once I log in, the price changes - but with the addition of "includes VAT and free wireless delivery with whispernet". Seeing as Amazon will incur roaming charges of some description, I'd assume they include the price with the book since a delivery charge on a digital product makes no sense. I'm assuming since you're Canadian that you were visiting Amazon.com? I'd say the same applies. In addition, I assume publishers have some sort of international agreements where books are sold at different prices in different regions - think iTunes Store. There's some music and video you just can't get in the other non-US stores.

Secondly, do you have any proof that it’s Amazon and not the publisher? Jumping to the conclusion that Amazon would be giving you the shaft is a bit much if you don't take into account things like differing sales tax, roaming costs of wireless delivery, licensing. They all suck as methods of hiking the price but assuming it's the retailer and not those that set the price? Amazon do have every reason to make sure Kindle owners are happy, if they are selling Kindles at cost they need as many people buying ebooks as possible, trying to make an extra few dollars of a purchase by being very underhanded in hiking the price based on previous purchases is really risky.

I've been using a website called Hot UK Deals for years and often buy products that get listed their that are found on Amazon. I've never once seen a price difference when logged in. The only time I ever see pricing differences when logging in is Amazon US, because they ship to the UK but have to adjust for differing tax.

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From: KTamas (Oct 18 2012, at 03:26)

Oh, yes, this is Amazon's infamous charge which I usually call the the "You're not in the US" tax. Some of it sometimes has proper grounds (i.e. local VAT), the rest of the money is charged for "International delivery through Whispernet", whether or not you actually have a 3G Kindle.

That's how the bargain .99 books become not-so-bargain $3.80 books for me.

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From: Adam (Oct 18 2012, at 05:10)

I'm logged in, and it's offering me the cheap price. yuck!

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From: frankl (Oct 18 2012, at 05:28)

surprised everyone paying to read at all - so many authors out of copyright for free on intertubes eh? and at least as good as current authors (um, poe, shakespeare, dickens)

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From: Wolf Paul (Oct 18 2012, at 06:44)

These differences are caused by different rules for book pricing in different countries. In some countries publishers set prices and retailers are bound by them (i.e. Germany and Austria, but also English-speaking countries). Amazon.com will show the US price to anonymous users, and the price appropriate for their country to logged-in users. They are legally required to do so.

The reason many of us international Kindle users are using Amazon.com is because for the longest time that's the only place Kindle books were available. Now we could change (and are encouraged by Amazon to do so), but we would loose any subscriptions, some of which are not available from the non-US Amazon sites.

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From: df (Oct 18 2012, at 06:46)

International diferences? Then why is the print list price the same?

Taxes? How do you calculate it? If applied to 9$ price that's 60%. If apppied to the list price plus 9$ that's still over 20%.

Note that hardcover and other formats are the same price.

Maybe it's the publisher price thing, but frankly I think amazon has jusr id'ed Tim as a soft touch.

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From: Chris Selwyn (Oct 18 2012, at 07:36)

I had a confusing experience when trying to buy a second-hand book in the UK.

I found two prices on the web for the same book from that same vemdor: one on the vendor's website (£20) and another on Abebooks (£10).

The vendor is actually only a few miles from where I live. So I drove down there prepared to pay the lower price but not the higher. When I queried the situation, the proprietor explained it was all about "marketplaces". He then went onto suggest that I should look on Amazon (UK) and would find the self same book on his Amazon store for just £5.

So I ended up effectively being bargained down by the vendor to paying an even lower price than I was prepared to pay.

I think I may go back there!

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From: David (Oct 18 2012, at 07:47)

Try it for yourself!!!

I was curious, so I signed out of Amazon, cleared my browser cache and looked up an item I purchased yesterday ... I'm an Amazon Prime member ... but check out the price difference, I'm not getting 'free two day shipping' ... when it's fulfilled by Amazon the price goes up by MORE than the shipping amount.

What a scam! I suggest you try this out for yourself.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/4kcucsx05ryhh6x/Screen%20Shot%202012-10-18%20at%208.39.40%20AM.png

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From: Bill Robertson (Oct 18 2012, at 07:51)

You could also go to your local library.

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From: Jonathon Barton (Oct 18 2012, at 09:02)

Another data point for you.

I, too, see the $9.48 price whether or not I'm logged in.

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From: Mike P (Oct 18 2012, at 10:16)

I noticed the same behaviour - I've read the first 6 Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher. Each subsequent book is ~$13 if I'm logged in, but if I'm not it's $9.99

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From: Tiago (Oct 18 2012, at 10:16)

Amazon's price for Kindle version here in Brazil is the same whether I'm logged in or not (using Chrome's Incognito mode): $9.99.

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From: Tiago (Oct 18 2012, at 10:37)

Looked at the wrong version before. For the "August 28, 2012" version the result is similar: it's listed for $9.48 whether I'm logged in or not.

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From: Michael (Oct 18 2012, at 13:41)

[post update comment]

In my regular browser (Chrome) it was $15.17 before signing in, and $15.17 after signing in. That browser probably had some amazon.com cookies from a previous transaction, so Amazon knew I was already an amazon customer. They didn't need to give me the lower price.

In a different browser (Safari) with no Amazon cookies it offered me the book for $9.48, but only until I logged in. Then it went back to $15.17 and stayed there even after logging out again. Odd.

I didn't try the One Click purchase when it said $9.48 on the page, but I wonder if it still would have been $9.48.

This is some strange business practise.

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From: Michał Ty (Oct 18 2012, at 14:49)

I'm sorry that you feel cheated, but you did buy the books, so it seems to me that Amazon priced them correctly for you. You're still buying well below the cover price, so it's not like they're ripping you off.

Perhaps if it was too expensive for you and you didn't buy it, they'd lower the price. I think that's just good practice. Hey, I'll also lower the price if the client seems to require it, and I'll ask for more if the client can afford it.

BTW there are two things different between the screenshots: first is the notice about tax being included, and second is about the price being set by the publisher. Maybe they've got some kind of pre-set price for people from Ontario or whatever your mailing address is.

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From: Dethe Elza (Oct 18 2012, at 15:09)

I've been enjoying the Sandman Slim books, but I'm not planning on re-reading them or passing them on to my kids, so I just get 'em from the library.

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From: Jim Robinson (Oct 18 2012, at 18:15)

Interesting, you mostly got better deals than I did (and I'm buying from within the US)...

$7.99 on Nov 10, 2010 for Sandman Slim

$10.99 on Nov 13, 2010 for Kill the Dead

$10.99 on Oct 17, 2011 for Aloha from Hell

$0.99 on Aug 08, 2012 for Devil in the Dollhouse

$9.48 on Sep 30, 2012 for Devil Said Bang

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From: Jay Carlson (Oct 19 2012, at 04:11)

If the privacy issues could be cranked down to a mild roar, it would be nice to have a browser plugin for crowdsourced price *self*-comparison. Just a button for "compare with cookieless browser" might be nice.

Note that choice of vendor on Amazon is a Big Deal. Most of the reason I'm there is "if you buy within the next 6 hours, you'll have it at day T+2", which is only available for Fulfilled By Amazon items. It is a killer feature for Prime members.

Other sites could offer this as well, but in order to do it, they'd have to have exact, realtime knowledge knowledge of their fulfillment chain, and not lie or screw up. With the usual two day ship, I've noticed Amazon shift to overnight if they blew the first day's pickup.

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From: Ben (Oct 20 2012, at 13:03)

Tim,

I'm afraid you've gotten it wrong again. Though you are coming from a Canadian IP, you are hitting the US retail site and the result is the assumption you will be taking delivery in the US. Once you sign in, they know you will probably be taking delivery in Canada and you see the Canadian price _which is set by the publisher_. The ebooks settlement applies 1) only in and US and 2) only to electronic books. The answer is still that Harper Collins, and the other large publishers, are shafting international customers on ebook pricing.

b

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From: David Taylor (Oct 31 2012, at 09:46)

Tim,

Thanks for introducing me to these books. I'm already half way through the second one.

You're and Angel.

David

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October 17, 2012
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