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It’s a Race to the Bottom for Amazon, Overstock on Pricing for Some Bestselling Hardcovers

How low can they go? Apparently responding to Overstock’s attempt to undercut its pricing, Amazon is offering discounts on popular hardcover titles that are dramatic even by its standards.

Shelf Awareness first reported on the price slashing at Amazon, noting that the retailer was offering 50% to 65%  off list.

“The books are from a range of major publishers and include, for example, Inferno by Dan Brown, which has a list price of $29.95 but is available on Amazon for $11.65, a 61% discount; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, listed for $28.95, offered at $12.04, a 58% discount; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, listed at $24.95, available for $9.09, a 64% discount; and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, listed at $17.99, available for $6.55, 64% off.”

Amazon’s deeper discounting followed Overstock’s announcement last week that,  “For a limited time, we’ve priced our books at least 10-percent below’s prices.”

As of this morning, the two retailers are offering identical prices on the above titles, indicating Overstock isn’t willing to go even lower to beat Amazon pricing. Amazon seems to have chosen which books to discount strategically. It has kept its prices steady on many other titles, allowing Overstock to make good on its promise to sell those for less.

Here’s a random sampling of pricing for a few titles published this spring:

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttlein, Amazon $18.37, Overstock $16.53; Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’ Farrell, Amazon $19.58, Overstock $17.62; The World Strongest Librarian, Amazon $18.78, Overstock $16.90.

So the price war isn’t escalating for now. Still, for Lean In, the current number one bestseller on The New York Times hardcover nonfiction list, to be priced at $9.09 at both of the online discounters — less than the price of the Kindle edition — feels especially ironic in the wake of the Apple price-fixing trial, which revealed how worried publishers were that $9.99 ebooks would damage the perceived value of a book.