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Currency-stirred book rage hits Canadian stores
November 15, 2007 / 7:07 PM / 10 years ago

Currency-stirred book rage hits Canadian stores

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Book rage has been washing over Canadian bookstores ever since the Canadian dollar rose to parity with its U.S. counterpart last month and prices did not drop accordingly.

Preset book prices for Canada do not reflect the increased buying power that the currency’s appreciation should have brought, and that’s sparking anger among normally placid book lovers.

“Canadian customers want prices to be on par with the U.S. That’s No. 1,” said Marc Glassman, owner of the Toronto-based independent bookstore Pages Books & Magazines.

“Adding fuel to their anger is the fact that book prices tend to be enumerated on each item, so the customer can easily see that a book is priced at, say, $15.95 in the U.S. and C$19.95 here. With jeans or shoes or TV sets, we don’t see the price comparison. That’s a big problem for booksellers.”

Staff at Book City, an independent bookstore chain in Toronto, say encounters with customers who complain about the discrepancy in price are a daily occurrence.

“They think that we, as retailers, are somehow trying to rip them off and there’s a profit to be made in all of this in the end,” said Book City employee James Lindsay.

“People are constantly taking it extremely personally and making unreasonable demands. Some people come in and just wave around American currency and want to try to buy books.”

Lindsay said reaction runs from inquiries, which he doesn’t mind, to threats to never shop in the store again and screaming across the counter.

Book throwing has even reportedly been a response.

At Audreys Books in Edmonton, Alberta, co-owner Steve Budnarchuk said the reaction has been milder.

“We were hearing plenty of comments that customers were getting fed up with the disparity and that they were going to begin spending increasing portions of their book budget south of the border,” he said.

Much of the delay in easing the book-price imbalance can be traced to the warehouse.

“Inventories take some time to turn over and price changes occur most easily for publishers when they’re reprinting,” said Budnarchuk, a past president of the Canadian Booksellers Association.

Some publishers are repricing new titles and others are overstickering the prices on backlisted books. Retailers also are trying to ease the pain.

Pages is offering a week-long sale on all books, Book City put its newer titles at a more general discount this week, and Audreys started selling books at the U.S. price just over two weeks ago.

“We got so thoroughly fed up with the pricing issue that we just decided to sell at par and take our losses,” Budnarchuk said.

($1=$0.98 Canadian)

Reporting by Naomi Kim; Editing by Peter Galloway

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