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November 14, 2007

Book Rage — In Canada, of all places


Who woulda thunk it?

Citizens of our neighbor to the north generally don't get nearly as worked up about stuff as us down here in the lower 48.

But now comes word, via Lawrence Van Gelder's "Arts, Briefly" column in yesterday's New York Times, that what he terms "book rage" has broken out there.

Here's his report.

    Open Book, See Red

    Book rage has now been added to the list of neurotic human behaviors. So far confined to Canada, it is characterized by angry outbursts in bookstores and, more specifically, by the hurling of books, The Globe and Mail of Toronto reported. The causes: the declining United States dollar, the rising Canadian dollar and dust jackets imprinted with prices making books more costly for Canadians. For more than 30 years the value of the Canadian dollar has lagged that of its American cousin; five years ago it was worth 62 American cents. As a result, book jackets customarily show a United States price and a higher Canadian price. But last week the Canadian dollar hit $1.10 against the United States dollar; yesterday it stood at $1.03. Thus book rage and widespread reports of unhappiness among buyers expected to pay the higher price. Some Canadian booksellers, including Wal-Mart Canada, have begun to offer their wares at United States prices; others are giving discounts on the Canadian price, rebates or simply marking down the books.


Here's the full November 10, 2007 story by James Adams from The Globe and Mail.

    Parity Puts Book Prices Under The Microscope

    The Canadian dollar has soared past its U.S. counterpart, so why do cost mark-ups on American book jackets remain?

    A bookstore traditionally has been regarded as one of the world's more civilized places of work and leisure. But with the aggressive rise of the value of our dollar against its U.S. counterpart, the Canadian bookshop has become a charged environment, perhaps even a dangerous one.

    Book rage, anyone? As the Canadian dollar hit the $1.10 mark earlier this week, booksellers and publishers began to circulate stories of customers going beyond simply venting their dismay at hapless clerks and turning books into projectiles, sometimes to the point of drawing blood.

    Ever since our dollar achieved exchange parity with the United States on Sept. 20, "books have been under the microscope," notes Yvonne Hunter, director of marketing and publicity for Penguin Group, one of the country's biggest publishers. And the consumer hasn't liked what he's been seeing. His ire has focused on the discrepancy between what a Canadian pays for an imported, American-made book in this country and what an American consumer pays for that same title, with the two different prices printed right there on the book flap for all to see. The bookstore serves as the conduit for what publishing historian and novelist Roy MacSkimming calls "this predilection for feeling ripped-off. There's been an attack of sticker envy out there."

    The gap between the two prices printed on the inside flap of a U.S. book's dust jacket has been steadily narrowing in the last five years and drastically so in just the last three weeks as the industry heads into the critical holiday gift-buying season - a time that, in some years, has accounted for as much as 65 per cent of the industry's total annual revenue. As one observer remarked earlier this week, "we're saying to the consumer, 'Don't assume because the last time you went into a store and the prices hadn't been reduced that you should just give up on it and shop south [either by travelling to the U.S. or shopping on-line] or something like that.' "

    Or throw books. Susan Dayus, executive director of the Canadian Booksellers Association, heard of two "book rage" incidents recently, both occurring outside Toronto, one at an independent retailer. But she refrained from giving any more details, except to say that "it sure makes it tough for the front-line sales staff."

    So far, the response of the various sectors in the book industry to the dollar surge has been a rather unco-ordinated, patchwork affair. Last week, for instance, Audreys Books, one of the leading independents in Edmonton, announced it would be selling U.S. books at U.S. prices. Wal-Mart Canada has announced the same. Other retailers have been discounting the printed Canadian price on a U.S. book by as much as 30 per cent. Mabel's Fables, a small children's bookstore in Toronto, recently began to sell U.S. hard covers at the U.S. rate, plus $2. Next week Penguin Group (Canada) will officially announce that, starting early next year, it will sell all its new U.S.-originated titles at U.S. price points.

    Said MacSkimming: "The hope for booksellers this season is that they'll gain on volume what they lose on margin." (In other words, by cutting their prices, booksellers will be selling at best slightly above cost or at cost and, in the worst scenario, taking a hit.) Meanwhile, in a 40-minute meeting last week with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the CBA revived one of the book industry's oldest and most favourite gambits, namely the call to exempt books from the GST.

    Part of the reason for the seemingly ad hoc approach has come out of a concern over drawing the attention of federal anti-collusion authorities. In part, too, it's been the result of inertia: The Canadian dollar last topped the greenback more than 30 years ago and only five years ago it was valued at 62 cents (U.S.).

    Further, publishers and booksellers have been operating on the presumption that the consumer has long known that the exchange rate is just one factor in determining price. The shipping costs alone for a book edited in Boston, manufactured in Hong Kong, routed through customs at the U.S.-Canada border, processed in a warehouse outside Toronto, and destined for bookstores as far-flung as Yellowknife and Fredericton, will add several dollars to its suggested retail price.

    However, the fixation on the exchange rate has swamped all such rationales. "Once the dollar broke par, the situation's been untethered and all over the place," Penguin's Yvonne Hunter observed. "The public, they don't care that we bought these books six months ago at a different exchange rate. They just look at the book and on some hard covers there's a $6 price differential and they're going, 'Why's that now that our dollar's worth 10 cents more than a U.S. buck?' "

November 14, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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life is short & death is sure
-- And the agony of death cometh in truth, this is that which thou wast wont
to shun .
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only that which ye have fairly earned whoso is removed form the fire and
is made to enter paradise he indeed is triumphant, the life of this world is
but comfort of illusion .
-- wheresoever ye may be death will overtake you even though ye were in
lofty towers .
-- the angel of death who hath charge concerning you will gather you and
afterward unto your lord yr will be returned .
-- everyone that is thereon will pass away .
-- say Lo. the death from which ye shrink will surely meet you and afterward
ye will be returned unto the knower of the invisible and the visible and he
well tell you what ye used to do .
-- on the day when their tongues and their hands and their feet testify against
them as to what the used to do.
-- and the day when the enemies of Allah are gathered unto the fire they are
driven on.
-- till when they reach it their ears and their eyes and their skins testify against
them as to what they used to do.
-- and they say unto their skins why testify ye against us? they say Allah hath
given us speach who giveth speech to all things and who created you at
the first and unto whom ye are returned.
-- ye did not hide yourselves lest your ears and your eyes and your skins should
testify against you, but ye deemed that Allah knew not much of what ye did.
-- and on the day we gather them together we shall say unto those who ascribed
partners(unto Allah) where are (now) those partners of your make_believe?.
-- and every nation hath its term and when its term cometh they can not put it off
an hour or yet advance it.
-- there is not a township but we shell destroy it ere the day of resurrection or
punish it with dire pumishment that is set forth in the book.
-- we destroyed the generations before you when they did wrong; and their
messengers came unto them with clear proofs but they would not believe, thus
do we reward the guilty folk.
-- O mankind ! keep your duty to your lord and fear a day when the parent will not
be able to avail the child in aught , nor the child to avail the parent , Lo ! Allah's
promise is the very truth. let not the life of the world beguile you, nor let the
deceiver beguile you, in regard to Allah.
-- and they (the disbelivers) schemed.and Allah schemed, and Allah is the best of
-- the agony of death cometh in truth, this is that which wast wont to shun. every soul must taste the death , everyone that is thereon will pass away if you are king or prince or leader or president or famous person or an ordinary man , rich or poor , child or young or older , healthy or sick , strong or weak , ignorant or scientist , wheresoever you may be death will overtake you even though you were in lofty towers.
-- and the book is placed, and thou seest the guilty fearful of that which is there in
and they say: what kind of book is this that leaveth not a small thing nor agreat
thing but hath counted it ! and they find all that they did confroning them and thy
lord wrongeth no-one.

Posted by: skylight | Jul 23, 2008 9:05:41 PM

It applies to a zillion more products than books.

Some Canadians have been going to Seattle to buy BMW motorcycles - about 25% cheaper - but Canadian dealers are retaliating by then charging twice the normal shop rate to work on new bikes with US VINs.

Time to move to Pura Vida.

Posted by: iamexluxtroxl | Nov 14, 2007 1:09:48 PM

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