Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book Prices

The CBC reports that the Canadian Booksellers Association is in talks with publishers, generally American, to more accurately reflect exchange rate movements that have seen the Canadian dollar threaten parity (95.2 cents as of last closing) in book prices.

About time. Right now, it's just rents accruing to publishers, who set the prices retailers purchase at. Since books are generally printed at only one publisher, there's a strong degree of market power involved here. I mean, even if the publishers competed with each other, I don't think many consumers would be content if their bookshelves started stocking only the books provided by a certain publisher who was giving the best deal on exchange rates. The store would have a very incomplete selection of titles. The evidence of the publisher's collusion is simply that there is a uniform markup on the Canadian list price, as the CBA representative states. (This is an argument for high book prices in general as well as the high degree of stickiness in adjusting for the fluctuating exchange rate.)

I will concede there are some more palatable reasons for prices not reflecting the gap (lags between printing and retailing, menu costs, etc), but I feel they don't account for it all. Despite the relative cheapness of books (as Carl Sagan pointed out in Cosmos, you can get "the history of Rome for the price of a meal"), I have been hesitant to purchase recently. This might just be a reflection of changing tastes from fiction towards non-fiction, which is more easily accessible through the university library.

Of course, maybe I'm just stingy.

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