Where Can You Find the Best Prices for Books?

Last year, I put together a price comparison of 10 books at 4 different online stores: Amazon, Westminster Books, Monergism, and CBD. The purpose was to learn whether or not Amazon truly offers the best prices, as we often think they do. What I learned last year is each of these resellers is quite competitive, but that Amazon doesn’t offer the best value overall (though it’s pretty close).

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I thought I’d try it again this year, choosing the print edition of 10 books people who read this site might really buy and pricing them at Amazon, Westminster, Monergism, and CBD. As with last year’s comparison, I did not tell any of the retailers that I was going to do this (so the prices are “pure”). Here are the results (with the lowest price for each book bolded):

Title Amazon Westminster Monergism CBD
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller $17.13 $15.05 $15.49 $16.99
Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, Eric Geiger $10.19 $8.24 N/A $9.99
Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian $11.50 $11.24 $12.19 $10.99
The Next Story by Tim Challies $13.49 $13.29 $13.07 $13.49
Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves $10.16 $9.15 $9.85 $9.49
Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp $13.76 $12.00 N/A $12.99
The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson $8.99 $8.81 10.83 $8.99
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (revised edition) by John Piper $7.73 $9.43 $10.09 $8.49
Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile $8.76 $8.65 $8.19 $8.49
Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller $14.00 $13.29 $15.71 $14.99
Total $115.71 $109.15 $95.42 $114.90

Though it may look as if Monergism has the best price overall, that’s not actually the case. Unfortunately they do not carry print editions of two of the titles I’m comparing (Creature of the Word and Dangerous Calling). When you factor out those two books, the spread looks like this:

  Amazon Westminster Monergism CBD
Total $91.76 $88.91 $95.42 $101.91

Over the last year, there has also been a significant shift in how many of our favorite resellers handle shipping fees. Amazon, Westminster, and Monergism all offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount:

  • Westminster: $49
  • Amazon: $25
  • Monergism: $35

The only holdout at this point is CBD; CBD charges $10.34 to ship the list above to a U.S. address. Because of that, we see the numbers shift a little bit:

  Amazon Westminster Monergism CBD
Total $115.71 $109.15 N/A $125.24

I did not include Monergism in this tally since their list of books is 2 shorter than the others. In last year’s comparison, the price difference between each of the stores was around 4% at the high end, this year’s are far more significant, with a nearly 13% difference between Westminster and CBD (a significant $16.09). Even with its closest competitor, Amazon, Westminster comes out ahead by 5.67 percent—$6.55.

What lessons can we learn here?

  • The online market is continuing to drive competition, and resellers are working hard to deliver more value to the customer.
  • Westminster Books offers the lowest prices across a range of books; if you are shopping for a single title, you are likely to benefit more from comparison shopping.
  • In order to properly compare pricing, you need to be sure to include shipping costs in your tally.
  • Amazon Prime offers a benefit (free two-day shipping) that keep many people ordering from Amazon even when prices are cheaper elsewhere. So too does Amazon’s massive product catalog–while you’re placing an order, you may as well pick up some batteries, dishes and underwear…