Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Words are cheap

Catching up on a few blogs recently there seems to be a general feeling that hardback books should be on their way out (see http://shamelesswords.blogspot.com/). Poor readers have to wait a whole year, it seems, before being able to read the books they had heard about because they really want them in paperback. What other industry, I tried to think, launches its products with the promise that a year later you’ll be able to get exactly the same thing, only cheaper? How bizarre. No wonder the whole issue of discounting has become such a ticklish subject. Perhaps what publishers should have been doing from the beginning is to reinforce in people’s minds that books are cheap, not expensive. For instance, a glossy magazine will set you back almost as much as a paperback. You’ll spend (probably) less time reading it and will think nothing of tossing it into the recycling once you’ve done. A paperback might be passed around several friends, it might stay on your own bookshelves for years, being regularly lent out, or re-read yourself. And should you wish to dispose of it, you would probably be able to get a small sum yourself in the second hand market, or pass it on for a charity to sell and raise cash. What else gives you such wonderful value for barely more than a fiver? When did the average price of a paperback last go up? And, if it did, one wonders, would people really stop buying them? Do people only buy books because they are in a 3 for 2 offer? Customers who shop only on price are notoriously fickle and will desert you as soon as the price becomes cheaper down the road, so you have to do something right to make sure your customers are coming to you for reasons that will bring loyalty. And back to the subject of hardbacks. Hardbacks often retail around £12.99. This is about the same price as a DVD, barely more than a CD. Would people really not buy one for a whole year on the basis of price? I don’t really know, but I daresay we shall be finding out a lot more about this when we start trying to sell them and make a living out of it. category tags: mbbookshop

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