Is Amazon Really Cheaper than Barnes & Noble?

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.

Amazon: $13.39

A Heart So Fierce and Broken Amazon Price

Barnes & Noble (Exclusive Edition): $13.39

Verdict: The Same Price

smaller star divider

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Pre-order price listed on January 7.

Amazon: $19.59

Barnes & Noble (Exclusive Edition): $19.59

Verdict: The Same Price

smaller star divider

Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen

Price for a book released in the previous month.

Amazon: $13.69

Barnes & Noble: $16.43

Verdict: Amazon is about $3 cheaper.

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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Price for a backlist paperback.

Amazon: $8.39

Barnes & Noble: $9.89

Verdict: Amazon is slightly cheaper.


Conclusion

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.

Briana

27 thoughts on “Is Amazon Really Cheaper than Barnes & Noble?

  1. ashley says:

    When I do buy books, it’s from Barnes and Noble because I’m not a fan of how Amazon treats publishers, their employees, or how they violate embargoes.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Same. I do buy other things from Amazon occasionally because sometimes it really is the only place I can find what I want/need, but I try really try to steer clear of books–and I find it SO interesting that people continue to argue they’re cheaper for books when in many cases, they simply are not. It was truer years ago, but online prices at other retailers are much closer or the often the same these days.

      Like

      • ashley says:

        It really is interesting that people continue to argue that Amazon is cheaper but at the same time, these are people who don’t want to listen when they’re told that Barnes and Noble are just as cheap. There’s a book that I’m really excited about and for a while, it could only be pre-ordered on Amazon and a few other sites, and I waited until I could pre-order it from Barnes and Noble.

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  2. deborahkehoe says:

    I try to buy from my independent bookstore to support small businesses. Not the most price effective option but I can afford a few dollars more. I’ll admit, I don’t purchase books too often so when I do I make that choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think this is a good point! I usually get books from Barnes & Noble because I shop online a lot, but I’m not opposed to buying a full price (gasp!) book once in a while either because it supports bookstores and a few dollars once in a while won’t break my budget. I imagine the people who buy 15 new books a month might have reasons to want to save as much money as possible on them though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elspeth says:

    I haven’t completely boycotted books an Amazon, so I won’t claim otherwise, but I do buy far fewer than I used to. Barnes and Noble is comparable in price, but my first choice for book purchases is an independent store in our city which sells both new and used books.

    If they don’t have a book I want to buy, I check Barnes and Noble. Occasionally, when I’m looking for something really old or obscure, the only place I can find is through an Amazon vendor, so that’s where I purchase it.

    It was your Amazon exposes here that helped me to be more diligent to shop other places for books rather than conveniently clicking on Amazon.

    Thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I also occasionally buy things from there, so I’m not the perfect boycotter either! I just very frequently see people say they get books there because they’re cheaper, and while that is sometimes true, it’s definitely not always true! And sometimes the price difference really is 10 cents! No problem if saving ten cents is important to someone, but personally I’m willing to spend a few dollars elsewhere to not support Amazon.

      I’m glad you found Krysta’s earlier post helpful!

      Like

  4. shanayatales says:

    This is interesting. I always believed Barnes & Nobles was way costlier than Amazon. But I guess now I see why. I only ever went to B&N store, and never checked their prices online. And then I usually picked older books, more popular ones, ones that were well established – mostly as gifts or for collecting particular editions. Looks like those are priced a little higher but not too high.

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am definitely going to be checking out B&N online now.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’ve seen that comment from a lot of people who only go to the physical stores (Which is cool! I like physical stores!), and it was one of the inspirations for the post. I have seen conflicting information on whether they will honor the online price for the “buy online, pick up in store” option, so I’m not completely sure what corporate policy is and whether some managers aren’t following it, but I think that’s also worth looking into for people who like browsing in stores but would also like a lower price.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Same! I do buy non-book items if I can’t find them anything else, but I try to steer very clear of purchasing books there. Saving $1 here and there isn’t worth condoning their business practices and the way they treat employees, to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. bookwormmuse says:

    The thing with not buying from Amazon being an option is a great thing however in a country like India, where bookshops with book worth buying are as rare as unicorns, Amazon and even BookDepository are always tempting options and often the only options. Even then, BookDepository tends to be costlier than Amazon on any good day.

    It’s tough but sometimes, we simply don’t have the option of going elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, I understand that Amazon is the only option in a lot of countries. I was looking specifically at the US, where Barnes and Noble ships nationally and is about the same price as Amazon. (The Book Depository is owned by Amazon, but I do also shop there when I need to ship internationally.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • bookwormmuse says:

        Exaclty, sometimes, I feel like there could have been better options and I see so many indie shops dying out because either they can’t compete with Amazon prices or more likely, they simply aren’t going with the times.

        Don’t mind me, just being a bit envious and bitter about you guys having options.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          No, I totally agree! It’s really frustrating when some people have lots of access to books and other people don’t! I know even people in rural parts of the US don’t have tons of options, though they should generally get mail from anyone who ships within in the US. :p

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Krysta says:

    I’ve noticed that Amazon’s prices seem to be going up in general, even for non-book items. If I do a quick comparison with other sites, oftentimes Amazon no longer comes up as the cheapest option. I think that Amazon may have to try less hard now because 1) people just assume they’re the cheapest and don’t even bother to price compare and 2) everyone seems to have bought Amazon Prime and, well, you have to justify that $119 by buying stuff for free shipping on Amazon, right?

    Like

  7. Isobel Necessary says:

    Love this conversation, thanks so much for opening up a discussion! I (mostly) boycott Amazon on the basis of the way they treat their workforce (especially in warehouses, where employees have ungenerous contracts which leave them vulnerable, and are tightly monitored and face severe penalties for minor issues). I’m in the UK where for most people it’s easy to access an alternative (Waterstones, or a good independent bookshop).
    When I bought my kindle about six years ago, I chose the Amazon ereader (as opposed to another brand) on the basis that because Amazon is such a large and successful business, the kindle ebook store was unlikely to disappear, and that’s turned out to be right. However, the lack of competition is also a problem, I think. I also find that because Amazon lists second hand books for so many retailers, and owns second hand book retailer AbeBooks, I am often short of other options when it comes to sourcing specific out-of-print books online (suggestions appreciated there). Still, they can’t take away the joy of trawling through a second hand bookshop in person!

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, there have been a number of news stories in the US about appalling employee conditions in warehouses, as well as some about the ridiculous expectations for delivery drivers to essentially deliver a package a minute–which puts them at risk for car accidents and injuries or even death. Amazon essentially said they contract out delivery driving, so it’s not their problem/fault if people are expected to drive dangerously and have no breaks for eating or the restroom. Charming.

      I think a lot of people hear this general idea that “Amazon is bad” but they don’t really know why or know HOW bad it is–and they don’t want to know or care because, well, it’s convenient to shop there! The book I reviewed today, Don’t Be Evil, also points out a lot of flaws of Amazon. One of them is, in fact, that small sellers essentially MUST use the platform in order to be able to actually sell anything. Hence the dilemma about all the used books being sold through them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    For me, the decision to go Amazon over Barnes & Noble is a no-brainer, even though, on the surface, their prices are pretty comparable.

    The Amazon Prime membership offers *more* than just free shipping on books. Yes, it’s also more expensive ($120/year vs. $25/year). I live in a very rural place, so we actually spend thousands a year on Amazon for normal household things that we can’t get locally. We also watch a lot of Amazon Prime movies, and I’m constantly reading free books on it. So yes, it’s more expensive, but in our household, it pays for itself. Versus having to pay $25 for just free shipping on books.

    We also tend not to buy a lot of physical books. The majority of books we purchase is Kindle format, which tends to be cheap and easy versus B&N’s Nook alternative.

    Amazon also has some perks that you won’t necessarily notice on the surface. For example … preordering. They have release-day arrival on preorders, which is very convenient. They also have a lowest price guarantee, so if you preorder a book when it’s $19 and it drops to $13 before release, you pay only $13. B&N doesn’t have either of these. I ran into this problem when I preordered The Toll from B&N. They ship on release day, so you get it, hopefully, within a week of release. They also charge you exactly what you paid. So when I preordered, it was $19. Four days before release, it was $13. I was about to be charged $19 for a book that was already on sale on all sites, so I had to go out of my way to cancel the order, at which point I would’ve been charged S&H because I don’t have a membership, so yup, I just ordered it off Amazon and got it the morning it released.

    So for me, it’s just simply not worth order from B&N. It’s enough of a price difference that it adds up significantly, even though we don’t buy that many physical books each year (though, we do get quite a few Kindle books).

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think the fact that many people (studies suggest about 60% in the US, I believe) have Prime is part of it, where people figure they might as well just buy everything on Amazon because they have Prime anyway.

      I do think it’s good you seem to be getting your money’s worth out of it! I know some people who cancelled Prime because they never actually used any of the “extras” like the music and videos, and then you’re basically paying a large amount just to get two-day shipping. Or people just impulse bought stuff because, “Hey, it’s only $5 and shipping is free!” and realized they would save money if they stopped doing that. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

        Ahaha, well, there is that old “hey, look, it’s cheap” gotcha. xD Goodness knows I’ve gotten more books because of that.

        I definitely think it’s sort of a “where you live” thing, too. I would be more likely to shop local if I had a bookstore local. I did once, and I went there all the time, but they closed. Now the closest one is 2 hours away. And our closest department store is about 45 minutes away. So Amazon sort of pays for itself, where we happen to live LOL.

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  9. DoingDewey says:

    I’ve noticed a similar trend when deciding whether to buy from amazon or B&N or my local bookstores. Sometimes the non-amazon locations are a little more expensive and rarely they’re a lot more expensive, but prices are often the same.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes! I think backlist books sometimes have a bigger price difference, but definitely if someone is looking at something new that came out, B&N is really trying to be competitive with Amazon, and I admit to being a bit baffled to people who just say, “But Amazon is cheaper!” without (as far as I can tell) having actually price compared with anywhere else.

      I do think the prevalence of Prime is related to this because people think, “Oh, I have Prime anyway. Might as well buy literally everything from Amazon.” Which is, of course, Amazon’s goal. Even beyond books, I frequently find better prices on many things at places like Target, so the days of “Amazon is super cheap!” are over, in my opinion. Plus I like ordering from an actual store where there is more quality control. So much stuff on Amazon also has the “I think I got a fake knock-off product” reviews.

      Like

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