It’s been a while since I allowed myself to rant on here. Bad for the image and all that. But here goes…

Publishers say a cover can make a consumer pick up a book off the shelf. Well, for me, and for most Canadians, this is the part of the cover that determines if we’ll put it down:

See the difference? We’re used to it. We don’t like it, but we’re used to it. We told ourselves that price reflected the difference in our dollar.  But it does factor into my decision whether to buy a book or not. I have a tipping point. I’ve often put a book down because it sets off my “that’s too frickin’ much” meter.

But the Canadian dollar is currently at par with the United States dollar. It’s even strong against the pound (back in 2000 I paid $2.35 to buy a British pound, now I can buy one for $1.59) It’s been hovering around par since 2007 with a few fluctuations. Back in 2007 when our dollar not only achieved parity but soared to $1.10 compared to the US dollar, Walmart announced they’d only charge us the American price if we took the book to the til. Chapters/Indigo (our only Canadian book chain ) were forced to follow suit. But then that offer slowly and quietly went away in both stores. And yup, we’re back to paying that $18.50 again.

What started this rant? Yesterday I went to pre-order Patricia Brigg’s newest book, River Marked. Patricia is one of the few authors I auto-buy. I adore both her Mercy Thompson series, and her Alpha and Omega series. I definitely wanted to get my hands on her next book. Until I noticed this…’s price? $14.18 

Barnes and Noble’s price? $14.18

But those are the US stores…I like to support Canadian stores…okay, Canadian STORE since I have no independent book stores in my area.(Chapters/Indigo took over the Canadian book market and forced out all the little guys a la Fox Books in You’ve Got Mail.)

Chapters/Indigo  $23.10 (or $21.95 if I use a membership card that costs me $25 a year)

So I turned to my faithful standby, the Book Depository. Now the BD are not Canadian, they’re run out of England, even though they have a .com site that makes it look like they operate from the States. Their price: $20.41

Note: the Book Depository does give me the option of converting that to US dollars ($20.21) but all these sites know where I am from my IP number I assume and I am not sure if an American would be charged that same price.

So it really chaps my hide to see such exorbitant price differences, especially when our dollar is strong against both the US buck and the British pound.

When I was ranting about this price discrepancy on Twitter yesterday, Vicki Essex who works for Harlequin tried to explain to me about how the publishing industry determines their prices six months in advance. There was a lot more to it and I sort of got it but when it comes down to it, as a consumer, I cannot get my head around a $7 – 9 price jump just for crossing the border.  

Chapters/Indigo will spin me some tale, and I suspect this is the reason for the price difference, that they only deal with publishers who have Canadian distributors. (That’s why it’s nearly impossible to get Personal Protection on the shelves in my own stores–Samhain doesn’t have a Canadian distributor.) So I’m guessing there’s a middle man taking a huge cut off the top here. I suspect it’s something similar with the Book Depository. And I will also cut BD a bit of slack since they don’t charge for shipping to over 90 countries.

The thing that publishers tend to forget? If the book is in hardcover, I know that if I wait a couple months I’ll be able to pick it up on a bookstore’s sale table for $10. I did it for Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and for Patricia’s last book, Silverborne.

Don’t get me started on the practice of changing a series that was originally issued only in paperback to hardcover and making me wait for a more reasonably priced paperback. That’s a whole ‘nother rant.

And yes, I could possibly buy it through the Kindle for the exorbitant price of $14.82 — ACE books, your agency pricing SUCKS! I refuse to pay more for a Kindle book than Amazon charges for the fricking HARDCOVER! That’s insane! It’s available on the Nook for $12.99, though not to Canadians. I checked Kobo Books but it’s not up for pre-order there.

But here’s my message to the publishers: I WILL NOT pay over $15 for a book.  Even a hardcover. And I definitely will not pay more than $9.99 for an ebook.

I can wait. Or I can visit a library and you’ll lose out on that sale. 


Back in the early part of this decade the Canadian dollar was worth only about 61 cents to an American dollar. It worked really well for Americans visiting Canada. Their dollar was worth almost two of ours so they could snatch up incredible bargains. With expenses a lot less and Canadian cities able to double for American cities, producers and directors flooded to Canada to make their movies and save money at the same time. A whole new industry burgeoned up here. It worked really well for companies shipping their products to the American markets. But for Canadians travelling to the States? OMG it was so expensive and we had to think twice. A hotel room that would cost Americans $100 a night would cost us almost $150 Canadian dollars. Tourism to the States, and out of Canada in general, dropped because we couldn’t afford to travel.

Around 2005 the Canadian dollar began to slowly battle back. By 2008 it was at par with the American dollar. It’s fluctuated back and forth, even dropping back down to .76 very briefly in 2009. But for most of 2010 it’s not dropped below .93 cents to the American dollar.

**Edited** By the way, that price graphic at the top of the blog? That was from Beth Kery’s Explosive which just released in November 2010. When the dollar was still hovering at par. Did I pay that? Nope. I bought it from the Book Depository for the grand price of $9.08, including free shipping. Told you. I’m frugal.

Also, just as this posted, literary agent Rachel Gardner posted about “remaindered books” … how those $20 books end up on a sale table for half price or more.

And over on Facebook, Jess Warth reminded me about NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement. Guess it doesn’t apply to books 🙁

Frugal? Or fed up?
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3 thoughts on “Frugal? Or fed up?

  • February 8, 2011 at 7:11 am

    And still I think of moving to Canada! I'd just have to bring my books withe me. It is ridiculous.

  • February 8, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I agree Leah – completely ridiculous. Yes, the publishing companies have to determine the price months in advance, but they already over-inflate the prices so much that it gets hard for any ready to justify buying a new release.

    I'd rather buy 3 or 4 'non-mainstream' authors at $5 or less for my Kindle than I would to pay the *SAME* price for an eBook that I'd pay for a paperback. (That's actually how I was introduced to my first book by you!) Its shameful and ridiculous because I can tell you *first hand* that to produce a single copy of an eBook is next to nothing – you only have to do it once. Its not like a press book that has to be reprinted, shipped, etc over and over.

    There's absolutely *no reason* why Canadian prices should be almost 20% (or more) higher than the US books. Its not a consideration of shipping or production costs – its just because they think they can get away with it.

    Rant, rant, rant away sweetie! The only way you can get them to recognize they cant do this any more is to rant and stop buying until it starts to hurt their bottom line.

  • February 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I feel your pain my fellow Canadian. I buy pretty much all of my books from Book Depository, and I'll wait for month of the prizes are to expensive. You said it CAN$ is pretty close to US$ now so there's no reason for a difference that big

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