When shopping for eBooks for your reader, tablet, or laptop, you have what can seem like an intimidating number of options. Google Play, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Sony, eBooks.com, Diesel: There are more choices for where to buy "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" than there are candidates for U.S. president.
With all those options, you might be wondering if you're missing out on major deals or wasting money by continuously choosing one storefront over another. To help lessen the confusion and offer a glimpse into the values each store offers,
we thought we'd compare eBook prices in four of the largest and most well-known eBookstores in the world: Apple's iBookstore, Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble's NOOK Bookstore, and Google's Play Store.
Our highly scientific method looks at three separate book lists that you're likely to be choosing your next read from: The New York Times Best Sellers in eBook Fiction; the New York Times Best Sellers In eBook Nonfiction; and USA Today's 100 Best-Selling Books of 2011. We've placed titles from those lists into a handy chart and listed the prices for each of the books in each of the four online stores above so you can easily see how prices compare. Sometimes there's no difference in price, so we've bolded the title of the book when there is.
What you conclude from the comparison probably depends on your perspective. To some, Amazon will appear to be the clear winner: Of the 70 books we checked, Amazon was cheaper than its competitors 15 times and was undersold just once, by 70 cents. Aside from that single blip, Amazon either offered the outright lowest price or was tied with other stores for the lowest price.
Of course, you could also look at these charts and conclude that a vast majority of the time, Amazon has the exact same prices as the other guys -- and the discounts being offered aren't exactly door busters. You're also not likely to choose an eReader based purely on the price of books in its proprietary store; other considerations, including (but not limited to) quality and price of hardware and software, connectivity options, and how easy it is to transfer books between devices, will also come into play.
For now, though, let's focus on eBook prices, shall we?
First, here are the Best Sellers in eBook Fiction for the week of Sept. 30. Out of the 25 books listed, the four stores offered the same price on 18 of them. Two times, Amazon had the outright lowest price. Barnes & Noble and Google Play each had the highest price twice, and Apple had the highest price three times.
All prices in dollars.
|Amazon||Barnes & Noble||Google Play||iBooks|
|1. "A Wanted Man" by Lee Child||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|2. "Delusion In Death" by J.D. Robb||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|3. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|4-6. "Fifty Shades Of Grey" by E.L. James||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|7. "Simply Irresistible" by Jill Shalvis||2.99||2.99||2.99||2.99|
|8. "Frozen Heat" by Richard Castle||9.45||13.50||9.45||12.99|
|9. "Love Unrehearsed" by Tina Reber||7.99||7.99||7.99||7.99|
|10. "Bared to You" by Sylvia Day||7.99||7.99||7.99||7.99|
|11. "Zoo" by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|12. "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin||2.99||7.52||3.99||9.99|
|13. "Because You Are Mine, Part VII" by Beth Kery||1.99||1.99||1.99||1.99|
|14. "The Time Keeper" by Mitch Albom||9.50||12.50||9.50||11.99|
|15. "Wrong Bed, Right Guy" by Katee Robert||2.99||2.99||Not listed||2.99|
|16. "16 Lighthouse Road" by Debbie Macomber||7.39||7.39||7.39||9.99|
|17. "The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman||11.99||11.99||11.99||11.99|
|18. "Telegraph Avenue" by Michael Chabon||9.99||9.99||12.40||9.99|
|19. "Summer Days" by Susan Mallery||4.00||4.00||5.99||7.99|
|20. "Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice" by Michael Brandman||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|21. "Last To Die" by Tess Gerritsen||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|22. "The Inn At Rose Harbor" by Debbie Macomber||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|23. "The Tombs" by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|24. "Where We Belong" by Emily Giffin||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|25. "The Blinding Knife" by Brent Weeks||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
Next,here are the Best Sellers in eBook Nonfiction for the week of Sept. 30. Out of the 25 books listed, the four stores offered the same price on 19 of them. Amazon offered a lower price than competitors five times. The Google Play Store did not carry two of the books.
All prices in dollars.
|Amazon||Barnes & Noble||Google Play||Apple iBooks|
|1. "No Easy Day" by Mark Owen||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|2. "The Price of Politics" by Bpb Woodward||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|3. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|4. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|5. "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|6. "The Amateur" by Edward Klein||12.99||15.09||Not Listed||12.99|
|7. "500 Days" by Kurt Eichenwald||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|8. "Obama's America" by Dinesh D'Souza||9.99||16.17||Not listed||12.99|
|9. "The Power Of Habit" by Charles Duhigg||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|10. "The Secret Race" by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|11. "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jenny Lawson||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|12. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson||14.99||14.99||14.99||14.99|
|13. "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle||9.99||9.99||11.67||9.99|
|14. "Mortality" by Christopher Hitchens||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|15. "Heaven Is For Real" by Todd Burpo||4.98||8.99||4.98||9.99|
|16. "In the Garden of Beasts" by Erik Larson||11.99||11.99||11.99||11.99|
|17. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|18. "A Stolen Life" by Jaycee Dugard||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|19. "I'd Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had" by Tony Danza||11.99||11.99||11.99||11.99|
|20. "How Children Succeed" by Paul Tough||9.45||12.69||9.45||12.69|
|21. "The Revenge of Geography" by Robert D. Kaplan||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|22. "What Remains" by Carole Radziwill||11.99||11.99||11.99||11.99|
|23. "Double Cross" by Ben Macintyre||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|24. "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls||8.39||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|25. "Government Bullies" by Rand Paul||11.99||11.99||11.99||11.99|
Finally, we looked up a selection of books from USA Today's 100 best-selling books of 2011. Out of the 20 books we checked, the four stores offered the same price 15 times. Amazon offered the lowest outright price just once, and only Apple did not offer one of the books, as the iBookstore does not carry "The Hunger Games" or any of its sequels. iDevice users have to download the book in the Kindle or NOOK store, and then download the Kindle or NOOK app in the iOS store in order to follow the adventures of Katniss and friends.
|Amazon||Barnes & Noble||Google Play||Apple iBooks|
|"The Help" by Kathrynn Stockett||9.99||9.99||12.99||9.99|
|"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins||5.00 (free with Amazon Prime)||8.99||5.00||Not listed|
|"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen||6.73||6.73||5.99||9.99|
|"The Girl Who Played With Fire" by Stieg Larsson||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"Inheritance" by Christopher Paolini||13.99||13.99||13.99||13.99|
|"The Son Of Neptune" by Rick Riordan||9.99||10.00||11.99||11.99|
|"The Litigators" by John Grisham||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin||8.99||8.99||8.99||8.99|
|"The Confession" by John Grisham||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"The Best of Me" by Nicholas Sparks||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evanovich||8.99||8.99||8.99||8.99|
|"Bossypants" by Tina Fey||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|"11/22/63" by Stephen King||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"The Throne of Fire" by Rick Riordan||7.99||7.99||10.99||9.99|
|"Room" by Emma Donoghue||9.99||9.99||9.99||9.99|
|"The 17 Day Diet" by Dr. Mike Moreno||12.99||12.99||12.99||12.99|
|"Something Borrowed" by Emily Giffin||7.99||7.99||7.99||7.99|
|"The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly||7.99||7.99||7.99||7.99|
|"Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay||11.99||11.99||11.99||11.99|
To reiterate, Amazon's relative cheapness doesn't necessarily mean everyone should rush out and purchase a Kindle Paperwhite. For one thing, there are more important considerations than the price of eBooks when considering a reader. For another, if you have an iOS or Android device, you can still access Kindle books by downloading the Kindle app and reading books there. The same is true for NOOK Books, which can also be accessed on the iPad and most Android tablets, including the Kindle Fire.
Rather, these price disparities finally serve as a vital reminder to comparison shop at multiple outlets before buying an eBook. That sounds time-consuming and boring, I know, but if you're pinching pennies, and you're a voracious reader, that money can add up. To cut down on the time you spend with four eBookstore tabs open on your browser, I'd recommend using a website like InkMesh, where you can input a book's title and view that book's price in several different eBookstores.
Until that Netflix For eBooks service pops up, you're going to have to shop around a bit before your purchase if you want to land on the lowest price. Because unfortunately, if you're trying to read "Steal This Book," it's much harder to do so on the Internet.