Publishers Weekly confirms something I've long suspected:
Amazon, which sets the price for everything it sells, is, as many people interviewed point out, losing money on a majority of Kindle editions. Although the price point for Kindle editions varies, the dominant one for hardcover bestsellers is $9.99, a price one publisher called “a killer.” (The e-tailer is pricing some of its Kindle bestsellers even more aggressively, with titles like Stephenie Meyer's New Moon, currently #4 on the Kindle bestseller list, at $6.04.) At $9.99 Amazon is selling its Kindle editions at, generally, a 60% discount; Amazon sells its print bestsellers at, on average, a 45% discount. The reigning price point in the Sony e-book store, with variations, is $11.99.
This is obviously a move to build up market share for the Kindle, something I suppose Amazon is in a position to do since it is one of the few book retailers to actually be in the black at this time. This also means that $9.99 ebooks are untenable over the long run, unless publishers choose to give Amazon a steeper discount in the future.
As Publishers Weekly notes, if this tactic works then eventually Amazon won't have to rely on publishers to give the discounts it wants–it will be in a dominant enough position to demand whatever pricing it prefers. So, in other words: hope that competitors manage to capture a sizable portion of the market.
For more info, readers should see my interview with Ted Striphas, where we touch on Amazon's already dominant market position and what that might mean.
Incidentally, I finally saw my first real-life Kindle on public transit earlier this week. I also saw five people with non-electronic books, myself included.