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Amazon's Crazy Whispersync Pricing
October 28, 2013 - 9:00pm

Have you tried Whispersync?

Whispersync is Amazon’s technology that lets readers switch “back and forth between a Kindle book and Audible professional narration - without ever losing your place.”

The way it works is that you first buy the Kindle book, and then for Whispersync enabled books you can add the Audibile audiobook to the purchase. Whispersync will then keep the audio version and the e-book version synced up.  

This works great as along as you listen to the book through an Audible app. I listen on my iPhone, and then switch back and forth between listening and reading the e-book version on my Kindle Paperwhite or on the iOS Kindle app.

In future blog posts I’ll share some thoughts about how Whispersync changes both the book reading and book buying experience, and why I think this Whispersync technology has implication for education.

For now, I want to vent a little bit (or even better get Amazon’s attention) about how poorly Amazon is executing the pricing strategy for Whispersync-enabled books.

I’m a longtime Audible Platinum subscriber. This means that I give Audible (which remember is own by Amazon) $229.50 in exchange for 24 books. (Actually 24 credits, but one credit always equals one book). This works out to $9.56 an audiobook. Under the Platinum Plan you can roll over up to 12 credits if you have not used them in a year, but in practice I listen to many more than 24 books each year so this is not an issue).   

The crazy thing that Amazon is doing is that in many cases the Whisperync deal (to add the audiobook to the Kindle book purchase) is a worse deal than buying the Audible book (with one of my credits) and the Kindle book separately.  

This means that there is no incentive to bundle the purchase.

Take for example a book that I’d like to read, The Circle by Dave Eggers.   

The price for the Kindle book is $10.99.

The book is Whispersync for Voice enabled (yeah!), but the cost for adding the Audible book after the Kindle book purchase is $12.99.

This is $3.43 more than I would spend if I purchased the Audible version of The Circle with one of my Platinum Audible credits.

The upshot is now that I’m less likely to buy any version of The Circle.

Since I would prefer to have both he audio and e-book version of any given book, I am going to look for books where the bundled version feels like a reasonable deal.   

The last thing I want to do is pay double for the same book.   

Yes, I’m willing to pay a little more to have both digital versions of the same book (e-book and audio), but not the full-price for two digital versions of the same book.

An example where this works out well, and where I gave Amazon (and the author and publisher) more money is Tyler Cowen’s new book Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation.

I paid $10.99 for the Kindle book, and added the Audible version on for $4.49.

What Amazon should be doing is pricing the bundled e-book / audiobook based on the individual purchases. Audible Platinum subscribers (and the Amazon and Audible site are tied together) should get preferred pricing on the Kindle bundle.  

This preferred pricing would do a number of things. It would incent more readers to become Platinum subscribers. It would raise the revenues for each book sold.  It would not cannibalize any book sales for a particular title. And the marginal cost of each additional book sold would be zero for Amazon and the publishers (given that both copies are digital).

I also think that this bundled strategy would drive sales. The great thing about combining audiobooks with e-books is that this combined and synced platform approach enables more opportunities to read, and hence faster time to finishing the book. If I can finish a book faster then I’ll buy more books.

Again, I think that multi-platform content has big implications for courses and curriculum, something that I will discuss in a future blog.

For now, how do I get the attention of the folks at Amazon and Audible to address this pricing anomaly?  

Amazon, Audible, are you listening?

 

 

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