Thursday, October 22, 2009

Books For Sale...Get Your Books Right Here!!

You might have seen the articles about the big sale in the NY Times or on Shelf Awareness recently. Seems that Wal-Mart and Amazon are engaged in a price war...and the subject of the war is BOOKS. It started with Wal-Mart offering 10 soon to be released books, that are expected to be big best sellers, at the amazing low price of $10 at their online store. Amazon, not to be outdone, matched the price, 'forcing' Wal-Mart to go to $9...and finally they are now at $8.99 for the books in question. From Shelf Awareness...
"The price war between Wal-Mart and Amazon (Shelf Awareness, October 16, 2009) escalated last Friday afternoon when Wal-Mart further lowered the price of 10 holiday season hardcovers--including Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, John Grisham's Ford County, Stephen King's Under the Dome, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna and James Patterson's I, Alex Cross--one more penny to $8.99. Reaction to the price-slashing moves by Amazon and Wal-Mart have been strong throughout the book trade."
And it would seem not in a good way. Smaller stores, independent bookstore are upset, because certainly, there is no way they can match these prices and stay in business. Others are concerned that readers will start to think that this is the price that all books should be offered at, and that it will hurt new writers, whose books will not be offered at these low prices. Others worry that this "accentuates the trend towards best sellers dominating the market" at the cost of new authors and smaller books.

Personally, I think all the hoopla is silly! Small independent bookstores can not and never will be able to compete on price. They must succeed, or fail, on offering something else to the buyer. Personal service, atmosphere, tie ins to the local community..they must offer what the Big Book stores or the online stores can not.
As to accentuating bestsellers, is this the same industry that says it was saved by a few huge sellers like the Harry Potter series in recent years? Folks, that is why they call them bestsellers. They get the ads, the promotions, the big book tours, the TV interviews and magazine articles..because the publishers know they will sell big numbers. Certainly more unknown books or authors would like that sort of attention from their publishers, but there is nothing new going on here.

So what of this price cutting. Is this something unheard of? Well, one fellow quoted in the Times would have us think so.
"Rafi Mohammed, a consultant and author of “The Art of Pricing,” said he was surprised by the radical discounting because he could think of no other industry in which retailers cut the prices of the newest or most popular goods. “You always pay the highest price for the latest and greatest,” he said."
Now I don't know where he shops, but that is just not true. As a college graduate with a liberal arts degree, I spent a number of years in retail. An old and well established policy in retail is the Loss Leader. You all know it...the ad for the 69 cents 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola with the big end aisle display at the store, the brand name TV at $200 less than any other store is offering. Stores commonly offer a top of the line product at an actual loss to them in order to get you into the store, and that is exactly what Wal-Mart is doing with their online book store. They want you to start thing of Wal-Mart online as a place to look for values in books and to do that they want to get your attention. Nothing new, nothing radical here and I find the book industry's reaction as a bit disingenuous and over the top. In fact, looking at the press this is getting, it seems to have worked much better than Wal-Mart could ever have thought!

As for me, I must admit I order a couple of these books for my holiday reading. I love a sale..and a book sale is a lovely thing.


  1. I saw a post about this from an independant book store that I follow. Here is what he had to say:

  2. as I said, I think he has it wrong. Bookselling is, bottom line, a retail business and the same factor that come into play in any retail business pertain in bookselling.

  3. The only one I am really interested in is the new Kingsolver and I already got it (for free - the best deal of all).

  4. I agree that free is best, but since I did not get it for free....:-)

  5. I am guilty as well Caite...I ordered: The Lacuna, Under the Dome and Pirate Latitudes, for $9.00 each on A. (Price will always be the bottom line for most people IMO)

  6. And you'd think they'd say the libraries are hurting them too! Free books!

  7. Diane...happy to share my guilt!

    She...they do say the thing about e-books and libraries. Not sure how that is different than the already free print books at libraries....

  8. I think the main problem the book world has is that in many circles, it's considered bad to buy from the big guy and best to support the underdog. The book world has always had these clear cut indie versus chain arguments (typically they led nowhere) and now suddenly it's becoming even more vicious, with the chains battling each other. It's just a new twist on an old story.

    Consumers shouldn't feel bad for buying books for cheap. Business is ugly and uncomfortable; each person has to make his/her own decision. Personally, I split the costs. Sometimes I go the cheaper route, sometimes I pay a few extra bucks just because it's the smaller guy. Everybody makes their own call and I'm not sure you can really fault book-buyers. Very interesting post.

  9. Anon Child, I think you are absolutely right.

    Selling books, like selling anything, is a business and you have to offer something to your customers that they are willing to pay for. It seems sometimes as though small booksellers just want to quilt people into buying from them and long term that is not a business model that will work.

  10. kik...all this anger is just plain silly. it is unfortunate that the mom & pop bookstores have folded, but so have just about every other mom & pop establishment these days.

    even if i was the richest dog in the world, i'd still be looking for a bargain. if walmart wants to give me the best price, then they can have my business. HOWEVER, do they do free shipping like amazon does if you spend over $25? i hate to pay for shipping, mom hates the pay for shipping.

    i dont pay for anything ;-)

  11. Bandit, I have to agree. Price is a BIG factor on anything people buy...duh!

    Let me ask you Bandit...being a dog, do you read a lot?

  12. kik kik kik, how many times do we have to go over this. i only read books in ITALIAN!!!!

  13. You have some great points here. I love your critical thinking skills (which I tend to lack) ... I would have just taken everything at face value! : )

  14. ...and they said that philosophy degree was useless! lol


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