Amazon Has Caused a Shift in How Books are Priced

David Streitfeld, writing for The New York Times:

One consequence of this shift is that soon no one will know what a book’s “real” price is. Price will be determined by demand and perhaps by whim. The first seeds of this can be seen in the Justice Department’s suit against the leading publishers, who felt that Amazon was pricing their e-books so low that it threatened their viability. The government accused the publishers of colluding to raise prices in an anti-consumer move. Amazon was not a party to the case, but it emerged the big winner.

There seem to be two different topics mixed together here, yet are presented as being the same topic. The first topic is the notion of a 'real price'. Folks, the market price for a product is whatever price the buyer and seller are willing to agree upon. If the market is willing to pay a higher price, then the price will rise. If the market is not willing to pay a higher price, then the price will stay the same or will fall. There is no reason to believe that books should operate under a different set of rules than other products in the market.

The other topic revolves around Amazon's role in the market and whether they might be hurting the viability of book publishing with their pricing tactics. As a whole, readers should be concerned about the health of the market for books. While Amazon provides a way to acquire books cheaply, there is a danger in letting cheap prices take the focus away from good content. The best way for consumers to make sure that they continue to get good content is to continue to buy (and read!) books that they enjoy, even if the price isn't the absolute lowest possible price. As well, a good way to ensure that one market player (e.g. Amazon) or one industry group (e.g. the publishers) don't have a disproportionate amount of sway in what gets sold and how much it is sold for is to support authors when they self-publish or offer a book through their own website. 

Folks, vote with your wallets.