Guest Column: Book Pricing: Rein in the Aggression
No one denies that price matters and that low prices have an intrinsic appeal. U.S. consumers have now had more than a decade of intensive "training" from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Amazon even makes its devotion to lower prices unequivocally clear in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission when it states, "We strive to offer our customers the lowest prices possible."
Nonetheless, both publishers and retailers need to keep in mind that people shift their business online for many reasons other than price. The idea that pricing is the runaway driving force behind online book buying—with convenience a distant second—is simply not true.
When asked to pick one reason why they generally buy books online rather than in stores, some 24 percent of respondents chose lower prices. That was the highest total across all factors. But we found it fascinating that 76 percent of online book buyers did not put price at the top of their list. For the heavier book buyers, price ranked first for just 14 percent of respondents, followed by the convenience-related factors of better product selection and 24/7 shopping, each at 12 percent.
When we zoom in on readers who expect to increase their book buying online over the next 12 months, a similar pattern emerges. Allowed to select multiple motivations, only 56 percent of the respondents even chose "lower prices" at all, placing that factor second behind 24/7 shopping at 61 percent.
For the most avid online book buyers, price dropped to third on the list at 50 percent, trailing 24/7 shopping and the online shopping experience, each at 53 percent.
That means that 44 percent of respondents overall, and fully one half of the most active online shoppers, did not select "lower prices" as a motivation at all, even when they saw the option in front of them.