A price war has broken out in the book world.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has announced that its online site, walmart.com, would charge just $10, with free shipping, for such upcoming hardcover releases as Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and John Grisham's Ford County, a cut of 60 per cent or more from the regular cost.
Amazon.com, the leading online book seller, has responded, also slashing its price to $10 for Going Rogue, Ford County, Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes and other leading pre-orders.
"At Walmart.com, we remain committed to providing our customers with the lowest prices available online. That commitment extends to the nation's best-selling books, especially during an increasingly challenging year for many of our customers," Raul Vazquez, Walmart.com's CEO, said in a statement.
"Our newest offering — the Top 10 pre-selling books at just $10, with free home delivery — is a true reflection of this commitment to better help our customers shop and save money online, just in time for the approaching holiday season."
In a new program called America's Reading List, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart also will offer 50 per cent off or more on 200 current best-sellers, including Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol and Kathryn Stockett's The Help.
The price cuts come at a time when Seattle-based Amazon.com and other sellers have been charging just $9.99 for ebooks, a price that publishers worry is unrealistically low. The reductions also make it increasingly hard for independent sellers, who can't afford such large discounts, to compete for the most popular books.
Booksellers have fought hard for blockbuster releases such as Brown's Lost Symbol and the Harry Potter stories, offering reductions of 50 per cent or higher. But Wal-Mart's announcement suggests a broad, sustained race for customers at prices few can afford to offer.