The Bookseller has been reporting that Bloomsbury has removed the recommended retail price from several of its backlist titles, causing a small uproar among indie booksellers who are afraid that in removing the cover price customers will think they are being overcharged by the bookstore. Because lets face it books can be expensive, and the look even more expensive when the supermarket down the street sells the same book at a deep discount to lure customers in to buy cheese.
Booksellers interviewed in the article explain that the cover price is their last wall of defense when explaining to a customer that their shop is not over charging but that they simply cannot afford to discount as deeply as a chain store because they order less books and receive a smaller discount. For this I feel for the booksellers.
However I also feel for the publishers. Books in the mid to backlist can sit for months (years?) before a print run completely sells and publishers say that the costs they face over the lifespan of the edition vary too dramatically to continue posting cover prices. With inflation projected to increase due to stimulus spending and currency's fluctuating several percent in a month I cannot really blame them for not printing these increasingly variable prices on the jacket covers.
Living in Canada cover prices have been an incredibly sore spot for decades now because we see both the Canadian and US prices listed on our books and it never matches the exchange rate. At times I have paid 20-30% more than Americans for books even after exchange as been taken into account, and it can be a bitter pill to swallow. At at time last year the Canadian dollar ended up being worth more than the greenback which forced publishers and retailers to sell books in Canada at the US cover price. These dramatic swings give good reason to eliminate the cover price.
I wonder what percentage of customers realize when an item is being priced as a loss leader, and when it is just a differentiation of markup.
In this whole PR battle it will be interesting to see who ends up facing customer complaints over price, and if any other publishers follow Bloomsburys action. What do you think? Let us know if your a bookseller or a customer and tell us if you think this matters?