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UK set for eBook pricing showdown

Waterstones misfires?

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With Amazon taking pre-orders for the latest Kindle and opening a dedicated UK store, an investigation by Reg Hardware has revealed big differences in the pricing strategies of some of the major suppliers of ebooks in the UK.

Waterstone's, probably the highest profile UK seller of ebooks, has announced that the price of the Sony Reader Pocket edition will be cut to £99 from 10 August, a move the company claims will make it the cheapest brand name reader on the High Street.

However, as the bookseller recommended by Sony to buyers of their Readers the company also appears to be one of the most expensive places to purchase the books.

Reg Hardware looked at a collection of 36 books bought over the past fifteen months, originally costing £208.65. To buy the same collection from Amazon’s new UK Kindle store would cost £158.97, or £205.61 from WH Smith’s eBook shop.

To buy the same books from Waterstones now would cost £239.59, an increase (allowing for the VAT change at the start of this year) of around 16.5 per cent; with a WiFi-only Kindle on offer at £109, those who read a lot could find it worth switching to Amazon, even if they already have an ebook reader.

A spokesman for Waterstone's told Reg Hardware that the retail prices of ebooks, like ordinary books, are set by the publishers, and that the company discounts the majority of books sold in its e-book store. They also pointed out that the prices paid for some of the books we bought might have been affected by past promotions.

Even so, there’s still a big difference between the established UK sellers and Amazon. If, as Waterstone's say, prices are largely determined by publishers, perhaps it’s time for publishers to support the UK’s booksellers as generously as they appear to be supporting Amazon.

Nigel writes more about this on his blog.

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