Thursday, July 20, 2006

Big Bookshop Warehouse Sale

The amazingness of recent warehouse book sales ... flummoxes me.

As a bookaholic I love my book bargains, and in the past few months I've had happy experiences with MPH, Times, and Payless warehouse sales and come away from each of them with bags and bags of great books at knockdown prices and feeling a euphoric high. Nothing but nothing beats finding a bargain copy of a book you really want!

But I can't help wondering what happening. Are books from overseas being dumped on the Malaysian market? Is there such a phenomena as "book dumping"?

You can understand a chain like MPH needing the occasional warehouse sale, because it costs money to store stock that isn't moving. Shelf space costs. It's sell cheap or pulp the stock to make way for more.

But it seems that cheap and excellent books are pouring in from elsewhere. Times was apparently bringing in cut price books from Singapore. The books in the Payless warehouse sale were second-hand copies from America.

And now here's another warehouse sale which has an incredible selection of books. I learned about it from Sympozium and decided to stop by at Atria this morning, not expecting very much. I mean how high does The Big Bookshop rank on any booklovers list of favourites? (The shop itself is on the top floor of Atria, sells a range of stationery but is pretty uninspiring.)

I was totally gobsmacked by what I found and don't even dare to tell you what I spent. (Okay, we don't have to eat next week.) I took a photo of my haul to show you and there are many more besides.

These are some of the best finds:

I picked up hardback copies of books on the Booker shortlist: Coetzee's Slow Man and Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown. (Julian Barnes Arthur and George with its beautiful cloth cover is there for less than a quarter of what I paid a few months back!)

And if you are interested in learning about poetry or writing it - as Sympozium pointed out The Ode Less Travelled is a real treasure. (I bought both book and CDs).

I bought novels I've long wanted: highly acclaimed stuff like The Colour by Rose Tremain, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth, Sebastian Faulks Human Traces, Remembering Babylon by David Malouf which won the IMPAC Dublin prize in 1996. I also found copies of The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald heaped high: this novel won the Miles Franklin Award less than a month ago and I wrote an entry pondering why I hadn't seen it in the bookshops.

I found hardback copies of Peter Ackroyd's biographies of Shakespeare and Turner, and a biography of photographer Diane Arbus which I had long coveted. Also Chuck Palahniuk's collection of essays Non-Fiction, writing guru Julia Cameron's Letters to a Young Artist, and the note books of an Australian writer called Murray Bail.

Now then, where are these books coming from and why are they here? Why are such recent and important titles among them?

The Big Bookshop has stores in Singapore, so there is surely a south of the border connection there too, as there is with Times. But it can't be a coincidence that so many of the books are by Australian writers. (Peter Carey's novels are heaped high in Aussie editions, including My Life as a Fake which is set in Malaysia.)

I wonder what will happen to these books if they are unsold. (Don't pulp them!!!!)
I wonder what the fallout from the flood of cheap books will be. (Good fallout - obvious. Bad fallout, the effect on established bookshops.)

Meanwhile - hey, I'm in bookish heaven. And may visit Atria again since new stock will be coming in.

The sale ends on 31st July.


Anonymous said...

I wish I live in KL so that I can go to such book sales too. Being north, there are occassional sales, and once, I was happy with my bargain, and when I read the books, I found one that has printing error. A few pages were not printed (the pages not torn, either). So I came to the conclusion that these books are actually "rejected" books, sort of like the clothes that one finds in "The Reject Shop". Just like in Reject Shop, there are good clothes, and there are some that have bad workmanship, or sewing error.

Anonymous said...

often- these books are remaindered..that means the publishers have some how cut off or sold at bulk to somebody just to clear stocks to get cash. sad as to say, sometimes some bookstores buy them in, to try to jeapordize market pricing.. it is very sad.. warehouse sales used to be the point of time to clear stocks, but looks like due to competition, a lot of different and new tactics are used. There are those who may not excel in ordering good books and have ordered in a pile of books and hence not able to sell, the best way to get cash is........

Ted Mahsun said...

Yes, the Big Bookshop warehouse sale was surprisingly good! I got myself a lot of gems for myself too!

bibliobibuli said...

anonymous 1 - i feel sorry for you living so far away from the good sales ... i spent time living in small towns away from any bookshops and that's really hard. it's too bad that you felt cheated by the copies you picked up. the books i've got at warehouse sales have been in excellent condition ...

anonymous 2 - thanks for that. could you explain how it works when competitors try to jeopardize the market pricing and how this might work in malaysia? (i ask because you seem to know)

in britain the larger chains have been hit by supermarkets selling books much more cheaply and many independent bookshops have gone under ... i wonder how sales like this effect the business in malaysia?

ted - yes, surprisingly good ...

Anonymous said...

Well.. the theory is that big bookshops buy in volume. Then they can sell cheaper than everyone else. Also, print runs are limited, so if you buy up a lot, you create an artificial scarcity of supply, which will push up the price. Then you've basically got a lock on the price (which I think is what he means.)

Of course, if you buy in volume then you've got lots of stock. If a particular title doesn't sell enough, then it goes into the warehouse sale. In the sale stuff gets sold cheap, so in effect the people who bought it at the earlier inflated prices get ripped off. I think that's why he's not in favo(u)r of warehouse sales.

_The_ Anonymous

Anonymous said...

bought _them_, not bought _it_. I always knew there'd come a day when i have to edit myself. It's a sign of old age. Soon I'll be ranting unintelligibly at everything. Dylan Thomas was right.

lainieyeoh said...

in my excitement after reading this post, i sent a text to my friend without thinking about what i was doing, and woke her up at 2am.

it's an sms in uppercase letters practically screaming how much and how long i'll love her if she takes me to atria.

madcap machinist said...

my my what nice books you have.

I'm there!

Glenda Larke said...

And if course, I have to give the author's take on these things. In each of my contracts, there is a section devoted to what percentage I get of each sale. And if a book is sold cheaply, my cut is reduced. If the book is sold at less than half the normal retail price, an author often gets nothing at all. [Contracts differ between books and authors and publishers. The basic rule: the more popular you are, the more generous the terms.]

And every time you buy something secondhand, of course the author does not benefit.

Do I then eschew secondhand book shops? NO. I use them to buy out of print books, or very popular stuff - I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Harry Potter secondhand!

Most authors are delighted to see their books in supermarket stands - even though the percentage they get is very small, the turnover is huge and the exposure is great.

Book sales? I dunno what's going on here. But let's face it, anything is better than being pulped.

animah said...

From someone who lives on the other side of the world: Where is Atria??
And how long is this sale on?

bibliobibuli said...

anonymous - thanks. yes, i feel cheated as i paid a lot more for some books ... it makes you feel, why should i bother buying full priced books when i can wait a few months and buy them for a quarter of the price at the next warehouse sale

glenda - thanks for the author's perspective. my hope is that a deluge of cheap books creates book addicts who then buy new books and support writers. i love all bookshops and am an equal opportunity bookworm!

lainie - 2a.m.? - you are funny! but i think you will have a great time if you make the trip

animah - damansara jaya! the old parkson grand. it's on till end of month and i'm happy to be your guide. ('cos i like just sneezing distance away) in fact i will meander round with anyone and fill their shopping baskets with the good stuff for them.

boo_licious said...

Awww, that is so tempting. Saw in tday's papers that Longman Pearson is also having sale at the PJ premises. I wonder if that means lots of cheap Penguins as I remember attending one sale there before where they had lots and lots of cheap bks.

Sufian said...

Hi Sharon,

You missed (or perhaps you don't find the appealing) quite a few gems, like:

Yasmina Khadra's The Swallows of Kabul
Serge Joncour's UV
A.L. Kennedy's Paradise
Javier Marias' Your Face Tomorrow
[can't-remember-the-name-brazillian writer]'s Borges and the Eternal Orang Utans
Arnold Lustig
Saramago's The Double

I wanted the Ackroyd's Shakespeare but it was that or a week's food. And the other one, Searching for Shakespeare (don't know by who) looks so good I almost tried to steal it.

The Eternal Wanderer said...

Actually Sharon, I didn't expect you guys to be in there yesterday as I had thought that you guys might have already wrapped up the writing course. So, I was a little surprised and not prepared to see you guys there, too!

Sorry if I accidentally rudely interrupted you in the middle of reading your story yesterday! :p I was glad to meet your new group too! Heh!

And speaking of writing, I've took up Starlight's challenge and wrote my own 300 word story -

Kari said...

I would gladly pay double for a selection of great books here (Ecuador). I was just at the largest book chain in the country, where you can actually find books in English, and the selection was awful. Nothing contemporary except a few bestselling thrillers - not my style unfortunately. I went off to another book store in a mall and found nothing. So disappointed. I'd like to speak to whoever does their purchasing...

On another note - hope you have a nice weekend putting all those books into your Library Thing account!

laydiefa said...

Aauw aauw, * biting nails* call me cheapskate, but I love books warehouse sales (and bookshops too of course).

I love the ones from TBS. Last week I went to the book sales on Doulos Cruise in West Port, Klang. I was a little dissapointed with the collections. I mean, is that all? In the newspaper it said 1.5 million books, but I bet it was far from 5000. :|

I hope Big Bookshop can make it up. I'm planning my trip there today!
Thank you for the news :)

p/s: blog-hopped from Ted.

bibliobibuli said...

boo-licious - when is the longman-pearson sale on? i always seem to miss the notices!!

sufian - my eyes slid over those books becasue i had not heard of some of the writers ... i have to go back now if you recommend them. i have unread a.l. kennedy's and saramago ... so it's just bookgreed to desire more before reading those you can borrow the shakespeare. ... and i still need to lend you the keret ... but how do i contact you???? i don't have your number or e-mail tho' i asked that ruhayat chap for them. (BTW - books or food? no contest!)

eternal wanderer - i was very happy to see you and it's nice that you had the chance to meet the rest of the guys in this little group - and thanks for reminding me that i must post up something soon on the e-group - will do as soon as i've hung up my curtains (spring cleaning going on because my sister is coming!) will drop by to read your story

kari - the book situation in ecuador sounds like the situation here a few years back. i bet you find yourself buying a lot on the internet? is the situation much better for books in spanish?

laydiefa - welcome! i'm sure you are going to have a lot of fun at this book sale. i may still go and take a look at the doulos - but more out of curiosity