I have been doing an excellent job of not ranting on this blog. I’ve come close a couple of times but I don’t think I’ve actually ranted. I usually save such things for my Facebook statuses. They’re often well received, mostly because I’m preaching to the choir. Even here, given the nature of this blog and the people who follow it, I’m probably not going to get much debate. I proceed nonetheless because it is cathartic and therapeutic, and I wish for my reach to exceed my grasp, or something like that (“shoot for the moon, maybe you’ll hit a pigeon”). Besides, Tania gets to rant once in a while. Why shouldn’t I?
I have returned to the trenches of book selling recently, and I have been reacquainted with some of the questions/comments/demands that booksellers must endure. I don’t have the privilege of answering these questions the way that I’d like to because I need to keep my job, so I will do it here (none of this hasn’t been said before, but I think that anything worth saying bears repeating):
1. “Why is this book so expensive?”/”This book is too expensive”
The very short answer to this question/comment is, “It’s not.” If you think about the amount of creativity, hard work, time, and talent that goes into the writing of a really great book (not to mention the fact that an author has bared his or her soul to the entire world), combined with the editing process, the printing of the book, the distributing of the book, and the bookseller’s presumptuous notion that he might make a living by his trade, $20 for a paperback is a steal of a deal. We should be spending hundreds of dollars for really great novels. A good book is something that you can read over and over again. It represents days and months of entertainment, fulfillment, enjoyment, enlightenment, and education. $20 is what you’d spend for a cheap shirt that has been made in a factory somewhere in a matter of hours. People will spend $60 (or even more) to watch two guys beat the crap out of each other for about an hour. $20 will get you a ticket to a movie that lasts only two hours (I’m not going to tear down movies to build up books, but there is a discrepancy of perception there). $20 is not too expensive for a book.
2. “Why is this book more expensive than the American price?”
ALMOST EVERYTHING IS MORE EXPENSIVE IN CANADA! Books are just unfortunate enough to have both prices visible on the backs. People see this, and the exchange rate of the day, and suddenly they become amateur economists. They are very poor economists, though. Canada is a much larger country than the US, with much more transport required between production areas and distribution areas. Canada also has very different trade regulations. That’s why ALMOST EVERYTHING IN CANADA IS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN IN THE STATES! That’s why there’s something called “cross-border shopping”. People will travel hundreds of miles, paying ridiculous amounts of money for gasoline, or airfare, to spend five to ten dollars less for something, while essentially supporting another country’s economy at the expense of their own. Move to the US if you want to pay US prices for things.
3. “Why is this book less expensive at Costco/Walmart/online?”
Me. That’s why. You’re standing in front of me and talking to me, and asking this question, so I can only assume that you are aware of my presence. We are also here with the ability to share the same space for you to ask me this question, and we can see each other because there are lights, and when you ask me to find the book with the blue cover that has “the” in the title, I can use this expensive computer thingy to look it up for you. Clearly you enjoy availing yourself of my superhuman book selling abilities, or you wouldn’t be using them. Why are you unwilling to pay a little extra for them (or to allow the author that you claim to love so much to make a living at what she does)? Also, multinational corporations that often rely on slave labour and cheap products can afford to take a loss on books. They treat them like they treat any of their other products, like toilet paper, or cheap shirts. Try and get some help finding a book, or get book recommendations that you can trust, from a Costco or Walmart employee. Good luck with that, Buckaroo.
There. I could go on and on, but rant over. If you disagree with any of my points, I’d love to hear how you can.
Also, check out Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the soup lines when the big crash comes.