I refuse to pay over $30 for a hardcover book. If I had an elaborate library, all wood panelling and oak flooring, thick Persian carpets and mood lighting, floor to ceiling shelves that vanished up into a dome-shaped gothic-type cathedral ceiling with gilt and frescos…then maybe. Maybe then I could afford the luxury. But I have three bookcases that hold, at the most, a few hundred books. One of those bookcases is dedicated to research books and another divided between photo albums and the collection of cow knick knacks my cousin has bought for me over the years. (She gives me cow stuff for Christmas, I give her pig stuff) The other bookcase holds my “keepers” most of which have been hardcovers collected over the years. I have most of Wilbur Smith’s books in hardcover, and most of Michael Connelly’s. I have my original edition of Patrick Denis’s Auntie Mame which was, if memory serves, the first hardcover book I bought when I was back in high school. I have some collector editions on Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, and James Stewart. A few others that I was given and read and enjoyed enough to keep.
The last Michael Connelly book on Amazon.ca was $29.99…a nosehair under the $30 high tide mark, but I thought that was cheating, so I bought it as an ebook instead. On Amazon.com it was only $27.99 when it first came out, and I guess if I had waited almost a year to buy it, I could have ordered it for the current $15.98. The .ca version is down to $18.88, but again that’s after almost a year. He should be coming out with a new one fairly soon and my eyeballs will roll to the back of my head again.
The price, to me, is outrageous anyway. It’s fiction. It’s a book. Most people read it once, shelf it, and run a duster over it once in a while. Diehard collectors will likely grit their teeth and buy a favorite author…or at least they have in the past, like me…but with the economy in flux, bookstores whining, lawsuits popping up against price fixing, and a Kindle or iPad reader in every purse or briefcase…I’m willing to bet a good number of those diehard collectors are going to start thinking the way I’m thinking…it’s just not worth it anymore.
Plus…and here’s the real reason for my gripe. Twenty years ago both the U.S. and Canada went through a terrible recession. There were all kinds of circumstances that caused our dollar to drop like a rock and for a while, the exchange rate was atrocious. It cost us $1.46 to buy $1.00 US if we were travelling into the States. Conversely, US visitors only paid the equivalent of $.60 for something that would cost them $1.00 at home. Tourism boomed up here, and Hollywood North was born as moviemakers shifted a lot of productions above the 49th parallel. It didn’t take publishers long to realize they were losing .40 on the dollar with every book they shipped and sold up here and thus the dual pricing on books, paperbacks and hardcovers, was born. Up to then there was one price printed on the spines of books, and I’ll use my own first edition of The Pride of Lions as an example. $4.95 for the paperback. One price both countries.
Through A Dark Mist, which was released in 1991, had the first dual pricing on the cover. $4.99 US, $5.99 CAN. There was grumbling, but with the exchange rate varying by as much as .05-.10 every month, the higher price was justifiable, because, after all, everything was printed in the States and shipped north, so it stood to reason the publishing houses were losing money. Zoom forward to 1997. The exchange rate was still high, but nowhere near the .46 it was at the beginning of the decade. That was the year The Pride of Lions was reissued by Dell in paperback. The US price was $6.99, the CAN price was $10.99. Four bucks difference. Zoom forward to present day, the paperback is $7.99 at Amazon.com (Kindle edition $10.19!!!!!), and $10.99 (reduced to $9.89) at Amazon.ca (where there is no Kindle edition available so we have to order ebooks from .com, which makes NO sense whatsoever but that’s fodder for another vent)
The last half decade at least, the Canadian dollar has hovered around par with the US dollar. Not long ago, we were worth more. Point being, the recession that justified the four dollar difference in price has long gone but the prices have remained as if there was still a .46 difference in our dollars. I would be curious to see, if and when Amazon.ca starts selling ebooks, if the price for a cyber file will be significantly higher up here than down there. I suppose publishers have to make their shylock money somewhere, and ebooks are the new golden egg…ergo the price fixing shemozzle they are currently embroiled in.
But back to hardcovers. James Patterson. Here’s what his new one is going for at Amazon.ca
|Amazon Price||New from||Used from|
|Hardcover||CDN $15.00||CDN $15.00||CDN $21.88|
|Paperback||CDN $28.25||CDN $13.04||—|
|Audio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook||CDN $17.54||CDN $11.42||CDN $14.80|
and from Amazon. com
|Amazon Price||New from||Used from|
|Expand||Audio, CD, Abridged, Audiobook||$16.49||$15.99||$11.95|
|Expand||Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged||$21.95||or Free with Audible 30-day free trial|
Note the hardcover price is *reduced* from $27.99 US. and $29.99 CAN. And those are Amazon prices. Walk into a bookstore and you’re likely paying the full price on both sides of the border. The price that jumps out at me here is the $28.25 CAN for the PAPERBACK. Hello????? Does that come WITH the Koolaid????? Patterson doesn’t even write the damn books himself anymore, he has a team doing it for him. That, combined with the ludicrous pricing, is sheer hubris on the part of the author and the publisher.
Publishing houses want to stay in business? They’re sure going about it the wrong way. They’re pissing off authors left and right with their price fixing, their unfair accounting practices, their contracts that have the nerve, in some cases, to lock up rights for “any form of distribution that may be thought of in the future” and yes, that’s an actual clause in an actual contract. One company created a subsidiary of itself so it could sell books to the subsidiary, call it a foreign sale, and thereby justify reducing the author’s royalty percentage from 50% to 3%. They expect us to trust their numbers when they give us no recourse, no way to audit or check them, no access to their accounting systems.
Amazon, a huge company by any man’s measure, manages to update sales hourly, specific to each damn book. And they pay monthly from all of their subsidiaries in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Britain.
Publishers have it at their fingertips, but they’ve been so accustomed to getting their own way for so long, they’ve become archaic and obsolete and if they don’t shape up soon and change with the times, their worst fears will come to pass.