Friday, December 28, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Would everyone please STFU about parity pricing for books and read this.
The price of a book, like the price of every other commercially sold item, is determined by two factors: costs and market forces. Publishers price their books high enough so that they cover the costs and make a profit, if possible, and low enough so that buyers will choose their books instead of a competitor's. Costs drive prices up; competitive forces drive them down. Thus works a free market.
In Canada, recent changes in the rate of our dollar relative to the US dollar have focused attention on the ongoing disparity between Canadian and US prices. Many people have assumed that parity between the two currencies should mean parity in the retail prices of consumer products. It is, perhaps, an easy assumption, but it is not soundly based. Canada and the US are two different countries, not only with different currencies, but with different tax structures, labour regulations, funding systems. They are two different markets, with two different sets of costs, and two different sets of competitive forces.
For books that originate in Canada, this distinction comes into play at every stage. For example, in Canada freelance editors charge significantly more than American freelance editors (who in turn charge more than editors in India). If you are publishing a Canadian book, and you need an editor who knows what a Timbit is, you are going to have to pay a Canadian editor. Up goes the cost of your book. Canadian publishers face higher costs across the board, but if they wish to sell into the US, they must address the competitive forces that keep book prices lower in the US. They price their books lower for the US market, and count on higher volumes to offset the smaller margin.
Most of the noise around this issue, however, arises from US books coming into Canada. In those cases, most of the costs are incurred in the US, and so consumers expect to pay US prices when the dollars are at par. But there are still differences that come into play. For example, the minimum wage is significantly higher in Canada. The cost of warehouse staff in Canada who handle the book when it comes in from the US and ship it to Canadian stores is higher than in the US. Higher distribution costs mean higher prices....
If you're so goddamn cheap that you can't afford to shell out the extra $2 to $5, then borrow your Oprah pick at the library, get it used, or order it online.
I'm sick of people thinking they can have whatever they want at whatever price they demand in the name of "good business." Underselling a writer's work is not good business. Diminishing the dollar value of the work that goes behind producing a book does not help Canadian publishers.
Face it, you can't have what you want, when you want it, right now, just because you're a customer "who spends lots of money at this store." The argument, "It's not fair" is no argument at all. Mom didn't let you act that way when you were six, so you damned well better not be acting that way at 36.
Stop bugging the poor saps behind the counter at Indigo. They don't have control over this kind of thing and they aren't paid enough to listen to you whine about the money you could be spending on an overpriced latte.