I recently had a bad experience buying a book from a local major retail chain, and it made me realise that I mostly shop online for a couple of very good reasons.
For two years now I have bought all my books through The Book Depository in the UK (let’s call it TBD for short). My husband discovered them after ordering some hardcover Tintin books through Amazon UK, only to discover they were being dispatched via the Book Depository. He looked up their website and found he could have got them cheaper buying directly, as the Book Depository offers free international shipping.
Their site has books I find hard to source here in New Zealand, and often has them earlier than we can get them. They are much cheaper and take about a week to arrive in my letterbox, which I find much more convenient than having to drive to town and pay $4 an hour for parking.
However, for my birthday my brother-in-law gave me a voucher for a major New Zealand book retailer, so I decided to use it two weeks ago to buy the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire.
I bought the first book, The Hunger Games, through the Book Depository for £5.42 ($NZ11.82), delivered to my door. Catching Fire was $NZ24.99, so I got no change from my $25 voucher. Sure, it was essentially free, but I had to pay my petrol and parking money.
However, it turned out to be a false economy when I reached page 234 and found it jumped to page 283 – 48 pages missing! As a result I couldn’t finish the book at the weekend and had to wait until last Monday to return the book to the store, meaning more petrol and parking money. The staff member happily replaced my copy with the last one they had in the store – its Wellington flagship on the Golden Mile of Lambton Quay – but it got me thinking about how I had never received a dud book from my online retailer.
I decided to conduct a quick price comparison in that store and along the Quay at the other major book retailer. Coincidentally, they are both owned by the same parent company, but often have vastly different stock.
Example 1: The Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. At the New Zealand stores, paperbacks are $NZ30.99 each. I bought Club Dead last month from the Book Depository for £4.53 ($NZ9.91).
The same book at Amazon US is $US7.99 plus a minimum $US9.98 shipping (total $NZ25.48) or the Kindle version is $US10.82 ($NZ15.34). At Amazon UK it is £3.97 plus a minimum £8.78 shipping (total $NZ27.89).
Example 2: An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon. Paperback in Wellington $NZ32.99.
TBD £5.99 ($NZ13.10).
Amazon US $US11.56 plus a minimum $US9.98 shipping ($NZ30.54) or Kindle $US14.40 ($NZ20.47).
Amazon UK £5.59 plus a minimum £8.78 shipping ($NZ31.43).
Example 3: Innocent, by Scott Turow. Hardback in Wellington $NZ43.99.
TBD £13.48 ($NZ29.48).
Amazon US $US18.47 plus a minimum $US9.98 shipping ($NZ40.43) or Kindle $US11.99 ($NZ17.04).
Amazon UK £9.00 plus a minimum £8.78 shipping ($NZ38.89).
Example 4: Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward. Paperback in Wellington $NZ24.99 at one store and $NZ26.99 at the other.
TBD £4.82 ($NZ10.54).
Amazon US $US7.99 plus a minimum $US9.98 shipping ($NZ25.54).
Amazon UK £5.00 plus a minimum £8.78 shipping ($NZ30.14).
Example 5: Dr Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter, by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook. Paperback took several months to get to New Zealand, where it retails for $NZ64.99.
I bought mine at Christmastime from TBD for £12.74 ($NZ27.87).
Not available from Amazon US, but Amazon UK £8.49 plus a minimum £8.78 shipping ($NZ37.77).
Example 6: A New Zealand author. The Jane Blonde girl spy book series for kids, by Jill Marshall. In New Zealand $NZ19.99 each.
TBD £5.39 ($NZ11.79).
Prices range on Amazon US between $US5.21 and $US8 plus a minimum $US9.98 shipping ($NZ21.59 to $NZ25.55). Kindle editions are $US7.90 ($NZ11.23).
Amazon UK between £1.00 and £4.99 plus a minimum £8.78 shipping ($NZ21.39 to $NZ30.12).
New Zealand book prices are expected to go up again on October 1 when GST rises from 12.5 percent to 15 percent.
Retailers are often in the news complaining about how their sector isn’t recovering from the recession, but when online retailers are vastly cheaper and so incredibly convenient it’s hard to see how the bricks and mortar bookstores can survive. With e-books starting to take off here too, there are even fewer reasons for me to shop on Lambton Quay.