As a lover of books–okay, let me clarify that I’m actually a hoarder—I’m worried about the increasing cost of buying books in Canada, particularly those imported from the United States.
I should note right off the bat that I’m talking about printed books, because those are the only kind of books I choose to buy these days (e-books are great, but they’re just not for me).
The price tag on a book purchased in Canada can be anywhere from $3 to $8 more than the U.S. price. The gap has been widening over the past year, mostly thanks to the sinking Canadian dollar (which, at this writing, is worth about 75 cents U.S.).
A local bookseller told me the prices are adjusted every six months, with another adjustment due this spring or early summer. Call me cynical, but I expect the price gap to widen further.
Even four or five years ago when our dollar was pretty much at par with the American dollar, there was still a gap in book pricing, although it wasn’t as noticeable as it is now.
By law, Canadian exclusive distributors can add a 10% markup to the U.S. list price of American books imported into Canada, adjusted for the exchange rate.
Canadian importers (Chapters, for instance) can charge sellers the price of the book in the country of origin — in this case the U.S. — plus the difference in exchange rates, as well as the 10 per cent mark up. That can quickly add up to a 20% hike or more to the Canadian consumer.
It’s true that printed books have been enjoying a surge in sales over the past year, a nice recovery from a long dry spell brought on by the advent of e-books. According to BookNet Canada, printed books sales in Canada rose about 3% in 2015 over the year previous.
And that’s great news, but the growing gap in book prices, which in bottom line terms means that Canadians are paying a wad more for their books than Americans readers, has got to hurt book sales in the foreseeable future.
My book budget has had a pretty high ceiling the last few years; I pretty much buy books without a second thought. But that’s changing. When I visit my local bookstore and see hardcover prices of $36 or more and trade paperback prices of $22-plus, I’m putting the brakes on by book buying compulsiveness. I’m waiting for books to come on sale now before I purchase them, or I’m visiting my local used bookstore. And when a new must-have book hits the shelves in hardcover, I’m waiting the few months until it’s sold as a paperback.
It’s true that I could go without buying another book for the next three years and not run out of reading material (so no need to feel sorry for me!), but I do think the reading public in Canada is going to miss out on some terrific new books unless this price difference is mitigated.
Tracey Richardson is the author of nine lesbian romance novels published by Bella Books (www.bellabooks.com) and is a retired newspaper journalist. Twitter @trich7117.