Monday, 19 September 2011

Would You Pay More For the Same Book in a Different Waterstones Branch?

It's been some time since I mentioned high street bookseller Waterstones. It has been featuring a lot in the bookselling press since it was sold to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut’s A&NN Group.

James Daunt, owner of independent bookseller's 'Daunt' was put in charge as managing director of Waterstones and since his arrival changes have been announced, and decision made that will effect the staff, book buyers and authors.

We're all realistic enough to accept that when there's a new boss in charge there will be changes; we might not like those changes but sometimes change is for the good. Bookselling is no different from any other type of retailer, you need footfall and resulting sales...

Since early September, Waterstones has been announcing this and that change; staff contracts changing, getting rid of 3 for 2 promotions, and closing a few branches. They even want to launch their own e-reader.

But among the ideas is increasing the percentage of discount they get from publishers- which means that the author will get less royalties if the discount percentage is raised. Makes me wonder if new authors' whose books get into Waterstones will get much in royalties from their sales...

Then last week 'differential pricing' raised its head. Example: a book by popular author X could be sold cheaper/dearer in Luton than the price asked in Bath, but both are being sold by the same retailer.

Now I can understand the reasoning that because of demographics you might sell a book better in one area that's more prosperous, than elsewhere in the country where that book will sell few copies.
(So stock less in the poor selling branches.)

But is that demographic issue a good enough reason to charge differently?

Personally I would be extremely annoyed (to put it mildly) if I went to buy a book in my local branch in Nottingham and then found out it was cheaper in their Manchester store.

You might ask how would you know? Well I'm quite sure it would be easy enough to check with a friend using social media or on a forum; and I wouldn't think it would be long before there was an online price comparison site.

At the moment it is only an idea, but I'm wondering what the next improvement idea will be...

Later this week I will be going into my local Waterstones so it will be interesting to see if there have been any further changes.
When I last visited the comfy chairs had returned (hurray- my back thanks you Waterstones) and areas were less crowded by tables and mobile book stands than earlier in the year.

So over to you, would you be happy with differential pricing?


Helen Baggott said...

I buy from anywhere that's convenient - and that means both location and price.

To be honest I haven't bought from a traditional bookshop in years.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

No - I wouldn't be happy with different prices in different areas of the country! No wonder e-books are so popular.

Helen said...

I definitely wouldn't be happy if I found out I was paying a higher price for a book, just because of where in the country I was.

To be honest, I'm not sure what Waterstones are getting out of all these changes. The fact is when it comes to price they're proving to be a lot more expensive than buying on-line, and whether they like it or not, most people buy books at least partly on the basis of cost.

Carolb said...

I think Daunt is coming out with all these ideas to see what reaction there is among employees, publishers and the book buying community, then deciding which could work, in my opinion, Helen.

Baggy I suspect your attitude is shared by a number of book buyers. It is what works for you.

Yes, Rosemary. I can see a differential pricing scheme increasing e-book sales in some circumstances.

It will be interesting to see whether this idea becomes reality, or gets forgotten about...

Helen Baggott said...

I grew up in a moderately isolated town. Everything cost more there - food, fuel, clothes etc. Location/logistics always have a bearing on prices. A big company won't compromise profits by subsidising these things - I'm not saying that's fair, just economics.

Patsy said...

No, I wouldn't be happy to pay more in one branch and find it was cheaper in another. I do use my local independent bookshop even though I know the book might possibly be cheaper elsewhere, but that's a different issue.

Carolb said...

You've made a good point Baggy. Business is primarily about profit and we shouldn't forget that.

You're right about using independent bookstores Patsy. It's sad that so many towns and cities have lost them, so book buyers in some places either need to buy online or use Waterstones, or WH Smith.