Given the kind of alarmist headlines and comments that have littered online and offline media lately, you can expect a rash of new conspiracy theories and doom-laden prophecies over the latest reports that Barnes & Noble and Amazon have begun a price-cutting war in the UK, with B&N firing first, slashing prices on e-book editions of many bestsellers to £0.99 ($1.50). As with the Overstock face-off in the U.S., Amazon has followed suit, with price-matching discounts on many – but not all – of B&N’s favored titles.

B&N is offering the Nook edition of  “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner” at £0.99 as part of its “Hot Summer Books” promotion, proclaiming “You Save 93%.”  “A Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin is also on the discount list at the same low price, albeit offering not such a compelling discount. And the UK Kindle Store is apparently chasing B&N down, now offering titles such as  “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel, which were originally reported as available at the new price only on Kindle, at the same cost.


I could be very wrong about this, but unless I read the runes wrong, this kind of discounting would be illegal in the U.S. If Nate Hoffelder’s interpretation over at The Digital Reader is correct, Amazon is limited—in the U.S. market—to an average 30 percent discount on e-books from the Big Five publishers, as it can’t cut prices below a zero marginal cost on their books, following the Apple price-setting settlement. That’s less than a third the discount that B&N is now offering in the UK on Khaled Hosseini’s latest.

The whole scenario rather undercuts the arguments of those who have supported B&N as not just a (yes, much-needed) counterweight to the Amazon gorilla, but also the champion of the Main Street bookstore, whether a bricks-and-mortar chain, or an independent. B&N initiated this discounting round, and any independent UK bookseller that can stand up to price slashing like that is really doing very well—and is getting very little love from Amazon’s supposed Number One opponent. And if the U.S. Department of Justice is really looking for some way to benefit Amazon through the back door, then obviously it should be taking lessons from Her Majesty’s Government.

Of course, as even some TeleRead readers will inform us, this is likely another instance of the great liberal conspiracy engineered by the White House and its Amazon cronies to manipulate our opinions and perceptions by ensuring that only left-liberal-leaning works will be discounted or will appear on e-bookstore searches …


  1. I wonder what, ultimately, the authors think about all this.

    I do know that with all their tax-evasion, and the way they treat their employees…,GPS monitoring of their every move, and huge chunks of the employees on moments notice, not even guaranteed number of hours work each week….

    I just refuse to buy anything from Amazon. After all, no one forces me to.

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