2.11.2006

question

Why are books so much more expensive in Canada than in the US? Does anyone know?

We are accustomed to buying books so much more cheaply. This is hard to get used to.

Please note, I'm not asking where to find discount books in the GTA. Thanks to readers, guidebooks and the internet, I have a good idea of that already, along with a Chapters discount card. I'm wondering why the big price difference exists.

19 comments:

James said...

If you look at the back of a book (especially a paperback), you'll often see the US and Canadian prices printed ("$9.95 US / $14.95 Canada", to use an example from my desk). A few years ago, that was (approximately) the correct exchange rate: $1 US was $1.50 Canadian. But since Bush has been in office, the US dollar has weakened a lot, and the exchange rate is now $1 US = $1.15 Canadian -- so that book is effectively 30% more expensive now than they were then.

The exchange rate used for the backs of books (and other things) is often a little high as well, so the publishers don't loose money if the rate goes up (and they make more if the rate goes down, of course).

Canada's a smaller market than the US as well (10% the size), which affects prices of imported material.

Also, books are taxed up here -- are they taxed in the US?

James said...

Off topic: Worth1000.com, a Photoshop contest site, has its entries up for its "What If Canada Ruled The World?" contest. There are some pretty good ones there. Even a few that don't use maple leaves. :)

L-girl said...

So the price difference is the exchange rate?

Are books published in Canada less expensive than books published in the US?

Funny, I've been seeing that "US/Canada" on the back of my books forever, but I never paid much attention - til now. :)

Also, books are taxed up here -- are they taxed in the US?

That depends on the state - if it has a sales tax, and how much. New York has a sales tax, New Jersey doesn't, to use two that I know of. It varies state-to-state.

I will have to take a look at that contest! Maybe something to blog about...

L-girl said...

So the price difference is the exchange rate?

To clarify, I understand what you're saying about the exchange rate changing, so books becoming more expensive relative to that. But that's what the price difference is about - that in Canada we're essentially paying US prices with Canadian dollars?

James said...

So the price difference is the exchange rate?

A good part of it is, but not necessarily all.

Are books published in Canada less expensive than books published in the US?

It's hard to compare -- books vary greatly in price even without worrying about that. I've never actually studied the matter. :) Books cost what they cost -- it's usually better to have the books than the money. ;)

Funny, I've been seeing that "US/Canada" on the back of my books forever, but I never paid much attention - til now. :)

I sometimes think it's too bad that Canada went with "dollar" and "$" to represent its currency. There'd be a lot less confusion if (for example) it had been called the "Canadian loon" from the beginning. $9.95 = L14.95 would be much more straightforward. :)

US news programs probably don't spend nearly as much time on exchange rates as Canadian ones do, as well...

L-girl said...

Books cost what they cost -- it's usually better to have the books than the money. ;)

That's exactly what I tell Allan: they cost what they cost. Get used to it.

We've had to postpone a planned book and music buying spree because of current financial semi-insecurity. But I have no intentions of only buying books when I visit NYC, or spending my life hunting down bargains.

I'll still use the library for books I want to read but don't feel the need to own, and I'll still buy whatever I want.

Allan, I believe, adds it up differently. :)

L-girl said...

I've never actually studied the matter. :)

LOL. I expect you to know these things! ;-)

I sometimes think it's too bad that Canada went with "dollar" and "$" to represent its currency. There'd be a lot less confusion if (for example) it had been called the "Canadian loon" from the beginning. $9.95 = L14.95 would be much more straightforward. :)

You're right! I never thought of that.

James said...

In Canada we're essentially paying US prices with Canadian dollars?

With US products, that's generally the case. The Canadian bookseller pays the US publisher US$9.95, and so has to charge Canadians CN$14.95 to cover the cost when the exchange rate is $1.50.

This is why the exchange rate is of major interest to Canadians and why it's featured on the news so much -- many of our businesses do business with the US, so a strong Canadian dollar means things cost less (until inflation and other economic reactions catch up) and it's cheaper to buy US goods. But conversely, it's more expensive for US companies to buy Canadian goods, so our exports get hurt when they turn to US competitors for the same items.

(Disclaimer: I'm not an economist. I not even that good at managing my own money.)

sharonapple said...

Are books published in Canada less expensive than books published in the US?

Unfortunately, for the most part the answer is no. The population size also hurts Canadian books since the print-runs are small so the publishers have to pay a higher per unit costs for books, and this leads to an increased price for buyers. It's one reason trade paperbacks are popular with Canadian publishers -- they sell fewer copies, but they make more per book to off-set the weaker sales.

L-girl said...

Well, we knew Canada wasn't perfect. Here's proof. ;-)

James said...

Well, we knew Canada wasn't perfect. Here's proof.

Books may be more expensive up here, but at least our Prime Minister reads 'em.

L-girl said...

Books may be more expensive up here, but at least our Prime Minister reads 'em.

I'm putting that on a bumper sticker! :)

Granny said...

Books are subject to state and local sales tax in California. About 8% here. The state laws vary. No Federal tax unless there are hidden ones (probably).

James said...

Books are subject to state and local sales tax in California. About 8% here. The state laws vary. No Federal tax unless there are hidden ones (probably).

We don't have municipal sales taxes up here, but the GST makes up for that. The tax on books in Ontario is 15% (I'm pretty sure that PST applies).

sharonapple said...

No, no PST. Just the dreaded GST.

Trevor said...

As a guy who once had part-ownership of a small publishing house in Canada, I can tell you -- those US/Canada prices on the back of the books are really just 'what the market will bear' now. Sorry! But come on, it's not like the Canadian publishing industry, or what's left of it, is rolling in Wal-Mart-like dough. They were indeed once the product of exchange rates (just like they are on magazines, but the magazine US/Canada prices seem to actually vary occasionally along with the exchange rate) but no longer.

It's like gas prices or credit card rates -- the corporations setting these will always gladly push them upward after economic 'shocks' but then hope you never notice that they never move downward with economic calm.

Trevor said...

Sorry L-Girl -- now for a solution for you. If you still have a US credit card, Barnes and Noble's website usually has cheap shipping to Canada (or relatively cheap shipping). Buying them there and having them sent to as a gift (Yes you can buy yourself a gift) might save you some cash.

But I'm more tempted to say skip a latte, and bring a travel cup of home-brewed coffee down to your local bookstore and buy something from them even if its slightly more expensive -- please!!! :)

L-girl said...

Not sure what you're assuming about my spending patterns or my coffee-drinking habits... I was only inquiring why books are so much more expensive (not slightly more - much more!) in Canada than in the US. Didn't say I was looking for a way around it, or that I wouldn't be buying them here. Just wondering why.

Trevor said...

no assumptions -- just an impassioned plea!