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Canadians Paying Steep Prices for New Books

By posted at 7:03 pm on July 11, 2007 2

Book hoarder that I am, I tend to buy most things second-hand, occasionally remaindered, almost always paperback, ideally pocketbook. But never hot-off-the-shelf hardcover. Okay, occasionally. When Bob Dylan’s Chronicles came out a couple of years ago, I bought it after work on the first day and actually refused to return home without a newly-minted copy in my backpack. (It’s an obsession. I’m handling it.)

The portability of paperbacks and the affordability of second-hand makes for an appealing combination. But the odd time that I do dig into my wallet for something new, especially a new hardcover, I’m astounded by the cost. This might sound a bit trite. The high cost of newly published books is hardly news. But I look at the price on the jacket and I see a massive difference between the US dollar cost and the Canadian dollar cost. This difference bears no resemblance to the 2007 economy.

Less than five years ago, the Canadian dollar was sitting at around 65 cents US. In recent years, it’s been inching its way up and now sits at around 95 cents US. So you’d think that a new hardcover sold here in Canada would be only slightly more expensive than the same book in a US store. How then do bookshops and the publishing industry justify the 30 per cent premium that Canadians are often paying?

A recent article from the Globe and Mail examines this phenomenon and explores the actions that Canadian booksellers are taking to bring book prices more in line with economic reality. And, in the process, corral more wayward book-buyers like myself, into their stores.

With any luck, this matter will be resolved by the time Dylan’s Chronicles Volume Two comes out.

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2 Responses to “Canadians Paying Steep Prices for New Books”

  1. Chris
    at 9:06 pm on July 11, 2007

    5%! Wowee! Let's look at an order I currently have waiting in an Amazon.com shopping cart.

    An order from Amazon.com:
    The Sot-Weed Factor (The Anchor Literary Library) – John Barth; Paperback $14.96
    Kristin Lavransdatter: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) – Sigrid Undset; Paperback $16.50
    In Search of Lost Time: Proust 6-pack (Proust Complete) – Marcel Proust; Paperback $47.25
    Under the Volcano: A Novel (P.S.) – Malcolm Lowry; Paperback $10.17
    Total: $88.88 USD

    Same order from From Chapters.ca (Canadian book tycoons/___holes)
    The Sot-Weed Factor (The Anchor Literary Library) – John Barth; Paperback $18.44
    Kristin Lavransdatter: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) – Sigrid Undset; Paperback $23.10
    In Search of Lost Time: Proust 6-pack (Proust Complete) – Marcel Proust; Paperback $75.90
    Under the Volcano: A Novel (P.S.) – Malcolm Lowry; Paperback $14.40
    Total: $131.84 CAD

    According to xe.com July 11th 2007: 131.84 CAD=125.054 USD

    And just for the record, Amazon.ca is usually very close to Chapters in price. Both include free shipping. The Amazon order is 29%($36.17 USD) cheaper. They can cram their 5% sideways with a bicycle.

  2. Emre Peker
    at 7:36 am on July 12, 2007

    Himm… Very interesting. I often find myself torn between two sets of issues: the cheap online v. expensive in-store purchases; and used bookstore v. chain (B&N, Borders) purchases.

    Often times I get carried away by a book and end up buying it regardless of forum or price. Obviously, and unfortunately, I am not the best consumer out there. Like Andrew, however, I much prefer a used paperback, preferably pocket-book size, to a glossy and unwieldy hardcover.

    Alas, books (and prices) come in many shapes and prices. That is why my favorite form of acquiring books is through swaps with and/or straight-up give aways among friends. Helps broaden the scope of things to read, too.

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