Valuable tip from a Commenter

You may have noticed the post where I recently said that Amazon was listing McKillip’s The Bell at Sealey Head with the ebook’s price as $13 and the hardcover’s price for $6.

That is true, and if you click through the link that’s what you’ll find right now.

However, Yaron commented:

I wasn’t familiar with the McKillip book you mentioned, so decided to take a look. And… figured I should share an eBook buying tip that, while not useful very often, does sometimes comes in handy, as with this book.


The thing is, Amazon, for eBooks that have/had multiple published versions, sometimes only returns one of them on search results of the title (or author, or series…), even though technically the other(s) is fine and valid and available for sale.


So, check other eBook stores. Even if you want to buy from Amazon. Especially for old books, but this does sometimes happen with brand new ones.
Searching “The Bell at Sealey Head” on Amazon returns just the one 12.99 eBook. Searching on Kobo shows two results, one for 12.39 and one for 5.39 (which is already an improvement if you’re fine with the alternate DRM, but merely comparing prices is sort of obvious, so not my tip).


Now, the tip: For *each* result on Kobo, go to the book page, scroll down, copy the ISBN, and search on Amazon for that ISBN.


In this case, the 12.39 Kobo book is the same one that is 12.99 on Amazon. But the 5.39 one on Kobo is sold on Amazon right now for… 3.38 .
So really worth checking. Note that, as I wrote, check all results, not always the cheapest on the other store will be the cheapest on Amazon.

Now, your mileage may vary. I find, when I look for Bell on Kobo, only the $12.99 edition. I suspect that first, this sort of thing may change rapidly, and second, depending on what country you’re in, you may get different results.

Regardless, this is certainly a strategy worth keeping in mind for ebooks that seem vastly overpriced compared to paper edition prices.

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2 thoughts on “Valuable tip from a Commenter”

  1. I’ve seen a lot of these differently-priced versions on Kobo, and I suspect it has a lot to do with the way English-language publishing is split into different markets. Maybe not always, but often.
    If that is the cause, then it will work really well for those of us in “the rest of the world”, but not for anyone in one of the designated English-language publishers-markets areas, i.e. the USA & Canada, great Britain or Australia & New Zealand.

    If the exclusive rights to a book are sold to publisher A for one of those areas e.g. the USA & Canada, and the exclusive rights are sold to publisher B for Great Britain, each publisher can set their own price for their own area.
    People in that area (or with devices registered in that area) can only see and buy the ebooks from the publisher with the rights to produce the ebook for that area.

    This is the reason people in Australia sometimes cannot get access to an ebook that exists elsewhere (e.g. some of the Foreigner ebooks), if those exclusive rights were kept apart to sell separately, but no publisher willing to buy them and produce the ebook has been found. Not a problem with physical books, as those can be bought (by bookstores or individuals) in the original market and shipped, i.e. the original market is the point of sale. With ebooks, the buyer’s address is the point of sale, and you get these kinds of limits/censorship on what you can and cannot buy.

    The rest of the world, all the countries where English is not the primary language, will never get a publisher willing to pay for exclusive rights to produce and sell an English-language book in their country, so those are included as non-exclusive distribution rights in all the exclusive rights contracts with all the US and GB publishers.
    The publishers have to remember to set the wide distribution rights setting when they send the book off to the ebookstores (if they don’t I can’t see the book), but it is included in the standard sales rights.
    That means I (in Holland) can see both the US and the GB edition on Kobo or Amazon, and choose which I want to buy.
    As the GB publisher uses original English spelling and words, and the US publisher uses the US spelling and words, and they often use different cover images to appeal to their home markets, there are small differences beyond the price. So for series, I try to stay with the same publisher throughout.

    It’s often not really obvious which is the US edition and which the GB one, so I read both mixed together and my sense of spelling has a hard time when I’m writing to distinguish which version of the differing words I need to use (except for the rule that -ou- is British and -o- is US in words like colour/color). Words like curbs/kerbs are harder to place, though I tend to mentally assign the more old-fashioned and Latinized spelling (c instead of k) to GB English.

  2. Yes, looking at them, it does seem to be, in this case, a GB/US publisher difference. Which was also the cases for some other books I saw this happening for in the past, but as far as I recall wasn’t/isn’t always the case.
    Plus, still doesn’t explain the odd behavior of Amazon in not showing the book on searches by author or title, while it still shows and sells it on ISBN. It’s not a regional limit in Amazon, since they do handle those differently, by just explicitly listing that the book isn’t available for sale in the region / for that version.
    Anyway, the whole regional sale limits and pricing on digital goods is a… mess. I’m actually more used to hitting it, for eBooks, from the other side, seeing price drops notices that don’t exist when I want to buy something, or knowing that some eBooks are constantly showing me a much higher price than the one people from the US see. Oh, well.

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