Battle of e-readers shows Kindle books much cheaper than Nook, Sony

NookAfter reviewing various e-readers recently in one of our savings experiments, I thought I would compare the cost of a variety of books currently sold by the three dominant forces in the e-book field, Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and the Reader Store, which sells books for the Sony Reader.

For this study, I chose the New York Times selection of the 10 best books of 2009; five fiction, five non-fiction. I avoided current bestsellers, since they are often subject to price wars and loss-leader pricing.

The results of my survey were startling. Since Amazon recently came to an agreement with major publishers, agreeing to sell e-books in Kindle format at a price closer to that of of the printed versions (a sop to the brick and mortar book business), I wasn't surprised the prices had risen on Amazon above what had been $9.99.

Book Amazon for Kindle Barnes & Noble for Nook Reader Store for Sony
Chronic City by Jonathan Letham $15.37 $20.76 $9.99
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy $14.27 $18.53 $18.16
A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore $14.27 $19.27 $9.99
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls $9.99 $9.99 $9.99
A Short History Of Women by Kate Walbert $9.99 $17.82 $9.99
The Age Of Wonder by Richard Holmes $23.76 $29.71 $40.00
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel $9.99 $18.57 $9.99
Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr $9.99 $22.27 $9.99
Lords Of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed $9.99 $9.99 $9.99
Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life by Carol Sklenicka $19.25 $26.00 $24.50
Total $136.87 $192.91 $152.59

What did surprise me was how many books remained at that low price, and the shocking difference in price between Amazon, the Reader Store and Barnes & Noble. In just these 10 books, books for the Sony Reader were 11.5% more expensive, while the Nook cost 41% more.

I asked Mary Ellen Keating, senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs for Barnes & Noble, about this price disparity. She replied via e-mail "eBooks are an emerging category and many pricing models are being tested by both publishers and retailers. What's important is that we are committed to providing our customers with the widest catalog of digital books and eperiodicals, that they can read and take with them on their computers and most (or mobile) devices. We are not focused on any one device, rather we're about giving consumers choices as to where they want to read their digital content. We are also committed to offering these ebooks and periodicals at a very competitive price." Take from that what you will.

Is Amazon continuing to sell these books at a loss to build its Kindle business? That would be my guess. In the meantime, those of us who read books on another platform, Blackberry in my case, have a choice between versions of the Nook and Kindle readers. Guess which one I'll be using.

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