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A Bit Late, Dont You Think?


As reported on CBC, for years due to the low Canadian Dollar, books prices have been marked up for the Canadian Market, such that a book that costs $7.99 USD will cost $11.99 Canadian, a markup of over 50%. However, since the Canadian Dollar is now at 91 cents US, the actual price, including the 10% handling charge as explained in the story should be $9.58 Canadian, which means there's an extra $2.42 cents coming out of my pocket and going to somebody - I wouldn't actually mind if it was going to the author, but somehow I doubt that's what's happening. What, you may ask, are Canadian Booksellers doing to address this? Oh, they are leaping swiftly into action, my friends - they promise to drop their prices - next fall - or approximately 4-6 months from now.

What, you may ask, is my point here, and why is that picture attached to this post? Patience, people, all will be made clear in time. That, my friends, is a Personal Digital Assistant or a PDA for short - in fact, it's a Palm Zire 71, the precise model I have. With this device, and with access to the Internet, I can visit various sites, such as Fictionwise, E-Reader, or Mobipocket, and download books for approximately 5-7 dollars US, a good deal if you're an American, but a great deal if you're a Canadian like me. You can even go to Blackmask and get public domain books for free. Now, I will grant you, deadtree (paper) books have their virtue, they're esthetically pleasing, don't require batteries, and some people do find reading on a computer screen to be troublesome, but there are virtues to electronic versions - portability (I've got over 90 books on the beast at present), they have their own built in light source, they're priced a bit less than deadtree, and most importantly - when the exchange rate changes, I don't have to wait for someone to reluctantly make up their mind to make price changes.

The point I'm trying to make here is that the market is changing, and that if you're a retailer, it should be your job to adapt to it and make changes to follow. Or conversely, you can sit on your ass, enjoy your temporary profit and then, in the future, wonder what happened to your customer base.

One other point I'll make is that these sites have very few, if any Canadian Authors - so if you're a Canadian Publisher - that light at the end of the tunnel? That's the future, my friend, and it's going to run you over if you don't start paying attention.

Excellent, Dan. I knew that we were getting taken for a ride at Chapters' but I wasn't aware that there was a delayed plan already in place.

Why it's enough to make one cynical, it is!

Chapters is actually a big part of the problem, if there was another major book chain that could offer to mark down their books right now, Chapters and the distributers would have little alternative but to follow. Plus, of course, since Chapters has apparently decided to deal with declining profits by upping the cost of their Avid Reader membership from 10 dollars to 25, they're seriously risking being a victim of that oncoming train I mentioned.

Hey, how long do you think books stay in stock? 2 weeks? It's much longer than that. The 4 to 6 months seems pretty reasonable to me.

As for e-books... let me say, e-yuck.

Of course the delay is easily understood. Chapters is going to make a mint off of the summer block buster book sales in Canada. Chapters is not going to throw away this unforseen windfall and would not have said a word until consumers started realizing what was actually happening. Four to six months, well actually six months (maybe seven with well written excuses) will allow Chapters to continue to skim until most or all of the Xmas book buying is done.
As for ebooks, personally I don't like staring at a screen for great lengths of time. I, however, am a big fan of second hand bookstores and libraries. I will avoid buying new if at all possible. Those who can read on a screen, kudos to you and I hope the trend continues to grow.

good point, Paul, I'm sure it's purely coincidental that this announcement was made after 'The Da Vinci Code' came out in paperback - can't miss out on that cash cow. As for ebooks, as I said it's a matter of taste. I'm a big fan of used books as well, however you might want to consider that in a lot of cases an ebook is comparable in costs to a used book, and this way some profit does go to support the author.

It probably would take me a while to get used to reading from an e-book, but I'd be willing to bet that as screen and interface technology develop it will be even better than paper. There was a time when I hated writing on the computer and now I can't even think until I'm at a keyboard; and I don't see why reading would be any different.

Of course, I like to read in the bathtub and that might pose a problem.

Like Paul, I'm a big fan of second-hand bookstores and we're blessed with good ones in Halibedmouth. Also, the library here is really good now - with being able to search and request books online and have them delivered usually the next day to your nearest library, it's as convenient as amazon and, well, free.

All that said, I don't mind paying for books, and I buy lots of them. As with music, I'd prefer to see more of the money go to the creators and editors and less to the dickheads in the middle, but I understand that some of that is inevitable. What I do not like is the expansion of megalith bookstores like Chapters into selling games and candles and shit. Call me old-fashioned, and I've been called that and worse, but I would like to see grocery stores sell me groceries, pharmacies sell me dope, and bookstores sell me books.

I've taken advantage of the free public domain books fairly frequently - I've been able to revisit the works of H.G. Wells, and I'm really enjoying the wide selection of real classics that are, for the most part, either out-of-print or prohibitively expensive.

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