Saturday, October 25, 2008

Great Time for Canadians to Buy Books?

According to CBC News, the falling Canadian dollar has created a wonderful, though temporary, opportunity for Canadian readers to buy books imported from the United States at bargain prices. It all has to do, of course, with the price shown on the books and their dust jackets and how suddenly the Canadian dollar's value has fallen in relation to that of the U.S. dollar.

The dollar's now fallen to below 80 cents US, but again the price on the book jacket doesn't reflect that.

Prices are set and printed months before the books hit the shelves.

That means that right now, books are a bargain," Smith said.

"Like Neal Stephenson's new novel Anathem, it's $29.95 US, and it's $31.95 Canadian. But, if I went at today's [currency] rate, it should be $39.95 Canadian. That's a 10-buck difference. That's another book," Smith said.
The publisher's CEO, David Kent, watches the exchange rate every day, because most of the books it sells are imports from the United States.

"We import 75 per cent of the books we sell," he said. "The difficulty for us is, when we adjust price, you won’t see it on books in the stores for a month in advance … right now U.S. books are a tremendous bargain, priced less than they would be in the U.S.," Kent said.
This is exactly opposite the situation that occurred just a few months ago when the Canadian dollar gradually reached par with the U.S. dollar. At that point, Canadian consumers rightly complained that they were being gouged because of the "old prices" at which the books were still being sold. Some Canadian bookstores, as I recall, started selling the books at lower prices then despite the fact that they had been imported to be sold at a higher cost. Consumer pressure worked then but, now that the pricing situation has reversed, Canadian bookstores should not expect any sympathy from customers. Funny how that never seems to happen, isn't it?


  1. That's silly. The price of books here hasn't changed, and a dollar is still a dollar, it's just that it would cost more for us to buy them from the states. The real story is that it's a bargain for US buyers to buy from Canadian sellers, even with the extra shipping.

  2. Sylvia, the point is that when all the current inventory in Canada is sold it will be replaced by books with higher cover prices, costing more Canadian dollars for the same books.

    So, in a sense, the ones on the shelves now are a bargain and likely not to be that cheap again for a while.

    It's all kinda confusing - I have to keep reminding myself that, as a consumer, a cheap dollar is not my friend but that U.S. exporters do more business than with a strong dollar.

    Your point about it being cheap for U.S. citizens to buy in Canada again is right on...but pre-marked U.S. books are an opportunity for Canadians to do likewise when it comes to books.

  3. I can't weigh in on this conversation...except to say that Balfour Books ROCKS!

  4. For us it was the high Canadian dollar that was an aberration. The bargain has been going on for some time. Having said that, I think our dollar will go back up when the turmoil settles.

    It's actually quite bizarre that the US dollar is riding so high when it's the US financial system that is the center of the instability. You have a foreign debt that will enslave you for generations, and your dollar goes up; Canada is paying down its debt, and our dollar goes down. Something is wrong there!

  5. Sure enough, the Canadian dollar went up almost 4 cents today. Crazy times.

  6. Scary times, too, Sylvia. I would hate to be a currency trader right now - don't think I could stand the stress because the exchange rates are more volatile right now than I can ever remember them being.