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Monday, September 9, 2013

Confessions of a bookaholic, but what's that got to do with the price of books in China?

My mother has always been full of odd little quips; like "Here's your hat, what's your hurry?" or "Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?" One of her favorites when I was growing up was "What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?"

Now, I paraphrase, because I have to fit the occasion.

I used to work in a book store. I worked for 11 long years, 5 of them as a store manager. Although the pay was lousy and the hours bit the big one, especially during the Christmas shopping season, the company was almost always good (meaning my co-workers) and the perks of being able to borrow books and getting a decent discount almost made the rest of it worthwhile. I rarely borrowed books. Once I got something in my hand, I always had to own it, so I would borrow the book and then buy it because I couldn't bare to give it back.

What's that got to do with China, you ask? Well, I'm getting to that in a roundabout way.

When I left the bookstore, one of the things I had to get used to was not getting books at such a hefty discount. I had my Borders card and still got Border's coupons, but it was nothing compared to the employee discount. I had to learn moderation. I had to be more cautious about the books I bought. I became less willing to give a new author a chance because I had to pay more. Since I had to pay more per book, I was actually not able to buy as many, so I had choices to make.

And I got used to it. I was buying for a long time only those books by my favorite authors. I was buying a lot of manga, but I was getting that from where their everyday prices are generally 25% off retail. But regular books, not as much.

One of the other issues I had was that I had to buy the book in hard cover if available. While I do not need glasses to read, some mass markets had really small font and it was tiring to my eyes to try to read little bitty letters. Hard covers always had larger print. Back in the day, I was reading a lot more adult fantasy, well, that was when the genre had more depth than barbarian women, vampires and whatever flavor of the week epic fantasy was in stock. The choices I had were hard cover or mass market. The majority of genre books back then were not released in trade.

So, I had to buy hard covers. It became a habit I just never got out of. Also, they are sturdier, although, not so good for bath time reading.

Then something amazing happened, that made all my sacrifices unnecessary. Amazon, while going through a change in business plan, started discounting their hard cover adult books 34% for pre-orders. I believe the YA books used to be like 20%, but that changed eventually as well. The general price of YA hard covers was about 30% off.

Well, that was a bargain for me and an answer to my prayers. If I could get a deeper discount by pre-ordering my books, than pre-order I shall. Plus they had the lowest price guarantee, which they still do. So even if I bought it at 30% pre-order, if it dropped more before the book came out, I got the cheaper price.

I was pre-ordering books like crazy. I was, in some instances, pre-ordering books almost a year in advance. As soon as a book I really wanted was solicited, I would find enough other books coming out around the same time and order a few so I could get the free shipping. I had it down to a science, complete with spreadsheets and flip charts with pie graphs, color coded naturally.

I was happy and so would have been, but slowly over the summer, I've been noticing something. Something that may jeopardize my current way of life. I noticed the average discount slowly starting to get shallower and shallower. I would start to see a few books that were 32% pre-order and the next week, they would be at 29%, then 26%, sometimes down to 20%. There were some books I was waiting on to add books to the order, but by the time I was ready to order, the discount amount dropped significantly.

It started with a few books, but now the average discount for pre-ordering books is about 25%. Every so often I find something discounted at 40% like the Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which I ordered by the way.

While I realize 25% isn't that bad of a discount, it is hard to swallow when I am used to an additional 7 - 9% more off. And I find I am back where I was when I left the book store. I can't afford to take so many chances on books I don't know or authors I've never read. And I am now forced to find bargains where I can.

I used to be all about my books having to match. If I started a series in hard cover, I had to finish in hard cover. Nothing was worse for me that having a series start in hard cover and by the end the books were only released in trade. My dream library was always floor to ceiling, wall to wall hard covers. Not floor to ceiling, wall to wall mish mosh.

I can no longer afford to be as picky. Now I realize a 7 - 9% increase in book prices isn't much if one doesn't buy a megaton of books. But I do, or had, or something. So, I am now forced to come up with alternatives.

  • BEA is a great alternative. Free books as far as the eye can see. Read the book, blog about it. I get a free book and the publisher/author gets free publicity. Win / win.
  • Likewise ComicCon, which is next month in NYC. Got some great books last year, some of them signed as well.
  • I spend hours looking for books from Amazon Marketplace that I have on my wish list. I try to buy New if possible, but will also buy Like New. I always have to factor in the shipping cost of $3.99, so I can figure if I can get is secondhand cheaper than Amazon is selling brand new. I bought one second hand that was new and to my surprise, found it was an autographed copy.
  • I look for Kindle deals. I look at the daily deals every day. There are also the monthly deals. The first of every month, I check out all the Kindle deals for the coming month. I have been buying a lot more Kindle lately. But I comparison shop and try to find the book the cheapest way I can.
  • Wait for the book to come out in paperback. The purpose of buying in hard cover was because of the print. But I realized this week, that YA books go from hard cover to trade. Most are not released in mass market. I am somewhat backlogged on my reading and don't get to most of the books timely, so waiting until the books are available in paperback is a viable and cost effective option, unless it is one of my favorite authors and I must have the hard cover.
  • Put more books on Birthday and Christmas wish lists for my family. I've been doing that the past few years and generally get at least a few books.
  • Work bonuses. My company has issued pedometers where we can earn cash or credit for achieving certain levels in fitness. One of the options I can choose is an Amazon gift card. I'm not going to make that mark this year though. Not quite enough steps walked. New benefit year starts November first so in 2014 I'll be walking for books.
  • Look for bargain books in the local book store.
  • Renew my membership at Costco as their books are 40% off.

I haven't done NetGalley or Edelweiss as I don't like the idea of not being able to keep the ebook. If I invest the time to read a book, it's going to be something I want to read and I'm going to want to keep it, even if it is an ebook.

I'm sure there are alternatives I have not explored yet, so if any of you have any ideas, let me know. I love the blog posts I read with book deals. I have actually gone and purchased the book based on those posts at times.

Besides trying to find bargains where I can, I sense that I will once again have to learn moderation. I think I will be less likely to try new books and authors unless I am sure I am going to like it. Because of this, the book blogging community is going to be all the more critical for me.  Those reviews can help determine if I am going to buy the book or not.

So, what's all this have to do with the price of books in China? Not a darn thing, but it sounds like something my mother would say.

Happy Bargain hunting!!!


  1. Just popping in to let you know that if you send your Netgalley books to your Kindle or Kindle app, you keep the ebook and it never goes away :)

    1. That is awesome news! I did not know. Do you have any idea how much power you just put in my hands???
      I guess I will spending some time perusing NetGalley. I've never requested a book before, but I sure will now.

    2. Thanks for letting me know!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I have such a hard time buying books in moderation there are just sooo many promising books out there waiting to be read. And even though I do get books on kindle I prefer hardcover or at least paperback even though they tend to be more expensive, but they are just so beautiful and besides a library of books is always more impressive than a kindle full of books lol
    Have you tried better world books? They are used but I get most of my manga there for 3 dollars each and free shipping as long as I buy 3 or more

    1. I will have to give Better World Books a look see. Thanks for the tip, Katie!

  4. like "Here's your hat, what's your hurry?" Oh my goodness, my nana used to say this all the time.

    On a book self imposed buying ban for a while now as I found my book buying was getting out of hand. Luckily I discovered reviewing books for authors was a wonderful way of getting lots of books without the cost.

    1. LOL! My mom used to have some other colorful ones I won't list here. That's funny!

      I have yet to be asked to review any books, but then, I don't have very many followers (no self pity intended). It is just so hard for me to find time to network. I've gotten back to posting at least three times a week, but the networking piece is time consuming, so I do a little here and a little there.

      Book reviews can be wonderful, but can also be burdensome. If it is a book I want to read anyway, I'm golden, but if it is not, then I might have difficulty. One of the reasons I decided to not try to get into book publishing as a career.

      I went back onto NetGalley, but I never completed my profile. I tried to do it again, but it was asking me questions I didn't have the answer for, so it seems I will need to wait for a day when my brain is engaged.