Amazon has made numerous headlines over the years for their poor treatment of employees and delivery drivers, their potential tracking of customers’ info through Alexa devices, and their strategy of selling items (like books!) at a loss in order to drive competitors out of the market. (Krysta explains more in her post on why she won’t buy books on Amazon.) Yet the online retailer is immensely successful, and one of the reasons customers cite for shopping there is cheaper prices.
My personal experience is that Barnes & Noble online often has the newest books for similar prices to Amazon (both discounting more steeply than indie sellers can), so I decided to do a mini experiment to check on some book prices. I looked at prices for a book on its release day, a book that has yet to come out, a book that came out recently, and a book that came out years ago. Here are some quick comparisons:
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Prices checked January 7, release day.
Barnes & Noble (Exclusive Edition): $13.39
Verdict: The Same Price
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Pre-order price listed on January 7.
Barnes & Noble (Exclusive Edition): $19.59
Verdict: The Same Price
Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen
Price for a book released in the previous month.
Barnes & Noble: $16.43
Verdict: Amazon is about $3 cheaper.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Price for a backlist paperback.
Barnes & Noble: $9.89
Verdict: Amazon is slightly cheaper.
This small set of examples confirms what I have noticed in my personal observations. Barnes & Noble and Amazon tend to have similar pricing for new and upcoming books, particularly ones that are bestsellers or receiving a lot of hype. For other books, Amazon might be slightly cheaper, but the price difference can range from a few pennies to about $3.
(Yes, this is mostly about Barnes & Noble online, but check with your local store about whether they will honor the online price for the “purchase online, pick up in store” option. Also, shipping is free with a Barnes & Noble membership or free on a $25 order–something I often see readers grumble about, but it’s worth noting that Amazon has basically the same shipping options–free with paid membership or free on a $35 order.)
In pure economic terms, saving any money is good, whether it’s 10 cents or 10 dollars. However, there may be other factors that influence that your decisions on where to buy books. If, like me, you are not a fan of Amazon’s treatment of publishers and employees and their attempts to gain a monopoly on the bookselling market, it might be worth spending a couple extra dollars here and there to support other sellers.