If you, like me, have been wondering where the 20p Kindle editions of titles such as Perfect People and The Stranger's Child have come from then fret no longer: the answer is Sony. Its UK e-bookstore (located naturally in Luxembourg) launched quietly over here around the London Book Fair, and equally quietly it recently began selling 10 e-books for 20p.
Sony's role changes the story: Amazon is matching Sony's low prices, rather than launching a new cut-price promotion as some had feared.
But that does not mean we won't feel the impact.
In an emailed statement "PR.ReaderStore-UK" told me that the 20p promo "is not time limited", and the titles "change frequently". Those titles currently on the cut-price list come from three publishers—Quercus, Pan Macmillan, and Canongate. Sony said they reacted with "enthusiasm" at its efforts to bring their titles to an "ever growing audience", though there is no suggestion that these publishers are funding the scheme.
Had the promotion been confined to Sony that enthusiasm might seem justified. As it is, Amazon's price-matching widens the cut-price campaign to an audience already being trained to look for low prices. The impact on print sales has been palpable, particularly for the two front-list titles— Perfect People and The Stranger's Child—which have seen print sales fall off over the course of the e-book promotion. Four weeks ago Perfect People sold 19,000 copies in print, last week it sold 7,000. Less well-known titles such as Monday to Friday Man, Playground and Pretty Twisted have all seen print sales rise, but here we are talking about double-digit numbers, so the impact, while positive, has been minimal. Only Karl Pilkington's Idiot Abroad has seen any significant uplift: it sold 1,700 copies last week in print, compared with 900 in the weeks before.
We do not know the e-book numbers, but the Kindle chart suggests these 20-pencers are selling strongly, and since Amazon has chosen to price-match neither the publisher nor the author are taking a hit. At least not yet.
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