A little more than a month after Overstock.com’s one-week sale with prices 10% below Amazon’s, Overstock announced that it would permanently match Amazon’s book prices.  As ICv2 reported (see "Online Price War Hits Graphic Novels"), the result of this online price competition was discounts on some graphic novels of up 70% off.  Now Overstock, which lost $11,000 a day with its 10% below Amazon sale, is vowing to match Amazon’s prices on print books on a permanent basis.
In a statement that could presage future attempts to grab sales from Amazon, Overstock’s CEO Patrick Byrne told The Wall Street Journal, "We think with the rise in sales volume, we can extract better pricing from publishers.  Publishers do want to see more competition for Amazon."  While matching Amazon’s current prices might be a solid first step on Overstock’s plan to carve out more of the online book trade, it is difficult to see how the challenger expects to change the buying habits of Amazon’s customers by simply matching its prices.
A selective check of some current graphic novel prices on both the Overstock and Amazon sites shows that prices are somewhat higher than during Overstock’s sale, but that Overstock is indeed matching Amazon on graphic novels.  It should be said however that Overstock appears to have a smaller selection of graphic novels. Will Overstock put enough effort into the print book category to create a selection that resembles Amazon’s?
The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1, ($59.99 MSRP), which was (during the sale) going for $23.93 on Overstock and $26.59 on Amazon is now selling for $29.63 on both sites, while the Batman: The Court of Owls Book and Mask Set (MSRP $24.99) was selling for $7.54 (70% off) on Overstock and $10.49 on Amazon, is now going for $14.99 on both sites.  The Complete Calvin & Hobbes paperback ($100 MSRP), which was $50.73 on Amazon, and $45.66 on Overstock, is now $53.85 on both sites.
ICv2 has checked the current prices of a couple of key backlist items that weren’t included in our first survey. The Watchmen trade paperback (MSRP $29.99) is selling for $14.48 on both sites, and individual volumes of The Walking Dead (MSRP $14.99) are selling for $11.48 on both sites.
The good news for brick-and-mortar retailers who have to compete with these online giants is that current prices are somewhat higher than during Overstock’s one-week "beat Amazon sale," but the bad news is that the two online behemoths are continuing to compete on price, and a price war on print books could erupt at moment, especially if Overstock wants to cut in on Amazon’s huge share of online book sales.