Thursday, October 05, 2006

O Canada

I ♥ Canada so much right now :)

I was starting to plan where to order this year's books from the I Tatti Renaissance Library. Up until now, this was one of the few areas where Amazon had been consistently letting me down: they always stuck firmly to the publisher's recommended retail price, $29.95. Thus I usually ordered them from Barnes and Noble, who gave at least their usual measly discount of 20% (and up until a few years ago, they even offered shipping by surface mail for some deliriously low price, $2 per book or something like that).

But this year, when I, as usually, went to AddAll to compare the prices, a wonderful surprise was waiting for me there: is still stuck at the RRP of $29.95, but the humble and usually overlooked offers a wonderful 34% discount, thereby reducing the price to $21.97 (and that's in Canadian dollars!).

I did some more searching around then, and found several other good deals. There are not a few books that cost fewer Canadian dollars on than they cost U.S. dollars on It's true that the shipping is a bit more expensive; unlike, which has a shipping rate for Europe as a whole, has a separate shipping rate for Western Europe only, so that we are stuck with their ‘rest of the world’ rate for CDN $6.99 (compared to's US $4.50) per book. But in many cases, the total of book price + shipping costs is still lower from than from

Just for the sake of comparison, I also took a glimpse at I'm sorry to have to conclude that Britain is a joke. The sooner it sinks into the Atlantic, the better. Shipping is £3.50 per book, while CDN $6.99 is equivalent to £3.33 (according to Google and the present exchange rates), meaning that the Canadians are able to ship a fricking book 6000 km away for less money than the Brits need to ship it 1200 km away. As for the prices of the books themselves, the I Tatti Renaissance Library's recommended retail price in Britain is £19.95, to which offers a pathetic 5% excuse for a discount, thereby bringing the price down to £18.95, or CDN $39.97 according to present exchange rates. A measly 80% more than in Canada!

But this is not the only example of the insane prices of books in Britain. I've recently noticed a very fascinating book about the economic origins of the WW2, The Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze. The UK hardcover edition has a RRP of £30, while the US hardcover costs $32.95, which is currently equivalent to £17.45.

Another and even more outrageous example: some time ago I bought the two volumes of the Penguin classics Ariosto, and the RRPs on the back cover of volume one were £17.99 and US $16.95!!!

What's the reason behind these differences in prices? I'm starting to form a hypothesis that book prices are correlated with population density. This certainly supports the observations in the previous paragraphs: Canada (3.4 people/km2) < USA (30 people/km2) < UK (244 people/km2). Anyone interested in lobbying for an

[Admittedly, maybe I shouldn't be complaining too much about the cost of books in Britain, seeing as I also live in a country where the equivalent of £30 is considered by the publishers to be a not unreasonable price for a new hardcover (while most other prices, as well as things like salaries and GDP per capita, are quite a bit lower than in Britain). But at least we have better excuses for high prices, such as VAT and a small market (and thus small printing runs) :-)]

Anyway, this post is beginning to ramble a bit, so I'll just stop now and start looking forward to many happy and above all inexpensive purchases from


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