I know many people who watch their email every Friday morning for the weekly Borders Australia message with detail of the latest discount coupons. Will it be 15%? Two for one? Or the much-loved but rare 30%?
And there are others who keep an eagle eye on Dymocks for the occasional 20% off sales.
Book prices have received a lot of attention in the media in recent weeks (see here and here), as the Productivity Commission returned its recommendations on parallel importation rules, alleged to cause high book prices in Australia.
Bookshops (most prominently, Dymocks) argue for complete deregulation, so that cheaper overseas books can be imported. Authors and publishers argue against, claiming a vibrant but small publishing industry will be undermined if protection is removed. Both sides have interesting arguments and, most importantly, it's largely about guessing the future. Consumers' preferences probably depend on their attachment to good literature or good prices.
So, let's wander into an Australian bookshop and see what we find. Independent booksellers tend to sell at the Australian recommended retail price (RRP). They can't often afford to discount, but they aren't out to gouge customers either. Now pop into Borders. What if you want to buy, say, Vefa's Kitchen — a new Greek cookbook (recently reviewed over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf)?
You can see the price is $76.99. How strange. The RRP is only $69.95! You see, Borders bumps up the price on lots of their books by 10%. How friendly. That makes your 15%-off coupon a (1-(1.1*0.85)=) 6.5%-off coupon. A bargain? Nup.
This trend started, I believe, with Angus & Robertson (A&R) last year. By Christmas 2008, Dymocks had reportedly starting do it, just before it was bought by A&R. Now, the marking up is rampant. And I gather that Dymocks is doing it too, though I've not seen evidence with any of the titles I've looked at.
So there we go. Whatever your feelings about RRP book prices in Australia, keep in mind that the chains are distorting perceptions further and ripping you off in the process.