While some retailers like Amazon like to selectively discount prices in order to get you in the door, other sites like Kobo prefer to jack up the prices charged to their regular customers.
Got a few minutes? Go check out the price on this ebook at Kobo: Frozen Heat. Make a note of the price and then log in (or log out). If you can see 2 different prices (I do) depending on whether you’re logged in to your account, congratulations.
Kobo is gouging you on the price (unless you see a price discrepancy the other way, which is possible).
Earlier today Mike Cane hooked me up with a friend of his on Twitter.
@RevBobMIB was browsing the Kobo eBookstore this morning when he noticed something odd. The pricing seemed strangely inconsistent, and after checking the price of the ebook mentioned above he discovered a fascinating secret about Kobo.
As you can see in this screenshot and this screenshot, Kobo offers some of their customers a lower price than the price offered to other customers. Here is a composite, and please note that I have seen these prices as well:
@RevBobMIB is one of those not so rare individuals who has more than one account at a single ebookstore, and that’s how he learned about this. Luckily for me you don’t need a second account to see the discrepancy; I confirmed it simply by logging in.
The book we’re using as proof is merely one of a number of titles which I have seen pricing discrepancies. Here is another. And here is a third title. None of this is illegal, but it is rather curious that Kobo is so blatant about it. I mean, all it took was simply logging in and out to confirm the discrepancies.
BTW, I found those other examples in under 3 minutes. Want to take a guess how many others we might find with a little work?
All 3 of the examples are published by Hyperion, a Disney imprint, and since they are not agency titles Kobo can price the ebooks however they like. (Now there’s a benefit from Agency pricing which I never expected; it protects me from deceptive retailers.)
Now, I’m sure that several readers are planning to respond with details about different prices in different markets and how it is all very normal. Someone might even bring up my complaint against Amazon and how Amazon tacks on unexplained fees in certain markets.
This is all very true, but Kobo is doing something different. Kobo is changing the prices shown to a single customer, browsing from a single computer, getting online from a single IP address. For some reason, Kobo feels it necessary to increase the price they charge to registered users. I’m not sure why, but I suspect that they want to encourage some of us to shop elsewhere.
It would certainly work on me; Frozen Heat, for example, costs under $10 at Amazon (either $4 or $7 less than the Kobo price) And Amazon shows me the same price whether or not I’m logged in to my account.
I have reached out to Cerys Goodall at Kobo for an explanation as to why this is happening; if she responds I will update my post. If anyone else at Kobo can explain Kobo’s pricing policy, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.
But if you’re going to start off by saying it’s not illegal, please shut up. I know this is legal, but that doesn’t mean I like it. I also know it is not exactly uncommon in some industries or with certain products, but that doesn’t make me any happier when I encounter it at an ebookstore.
I find this incredibly off-putting, and it makes me wonder what other tricks Kobo is pulling behind the scenes. But I will leave that up to someone else to find. I’m going to buy my ebooks at Amazon. Unlike Kobo, Amazon actually likes customers.