Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and The Evil Price War

Big drama. Front page news in the Star.

Because of Tesco and Carrefour undercutting the price of HP7 (both selling at RM69.90 instead of the recommended price of Rm109.90) the four major bookshop chains, MPH, Times, Popular and Harris, have decided not to sell the book! Good for the retailers sticking together. Sad sad sad for all those who were planning to launch the book in a fun way this morning, and for the fans. (Those who pre-booked will still be able to collect their copies.)

Says MPH's chief operating officer, Patricia Chen:
It's not fair to allow hypermarkets to sell such a popular book when they are not in the book business.
I wholeheartedly agree with her. Stick to your baked beans and chicken portions and ikan bilis, hypermarkets, and if my credit card doesn't go through your till for a good long while you'll know it's my small way of making a protest. (Actually you probably won't notice, as the only thing I go out of my way to buy at Tesco is ground coffee, which is really rather good ... but I can live without that!)

On a happier note, there are some very nice pictures of last night's Sorceror's ball at MPH 1 Utama in the print version of the paper but sadly not online.

Update:

Raman of Silverfish (who said he couldn't afford to sell the book anyway) is laughing long and hard at all this and seems to feel it serves the chain bookshops right. Under the charming heading:
In Malaysia, the Harry Potter Shit Hits the fan
he writes:
Guess it was bound to happen. Major bookshop chains in the city have decided to boycott the latest Harry Potter book in the series Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows due to 'unfair' pricing by Tesco and Carrefour hypermarkets. Isn't that simply delicious? Unfair pricing? Well, well, well. Who's talking now? Now, isn't that exactly what major chains have been doing to independent bookshops all these years? When they sold the latest release of a best-selling author below cost at their four-times-a-year 'warehouse' sales to attract customers, what did they think they were doing? Now they are protesting? Is that rich or what? Does anyone remember how JRR Tolkein's latest book Children of Hurin was sold below cost at a recent warehouse sale even before it was even released to the public.

Well, talk about poetic justice. Oh poor thing ... boo, hoo, hoo ...

I think what has happened with Harry Potter is the best thing that has happened to the industry. Time to put the house in order, right?
Meanwhile, some other bloggers have posted on the issue including The Malaysian, Georgette Tan, Eyeris, and Eric Forbes.

Yinny the Yinn works at Borders (which was selling the book) and tells how she almost got crushed in the rush.

This is the biggest local bookshop crisis ever, I think, and brings to a head issues that have been bubbling under for a long time.

(Photo of newspaper ad scanned in by Raman and nicked from his website.)

117 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looks like I won't be going to Tesco and Creefour for a long long time. I think they should stick to what they know best - baked beans, ground coffee, rice, prune juice, etc. and leave books to the bookstore chains. Anyway, most of the time I don't get what I want from these hypermarkets. My neighbourhood provision shop is more complete and convenient.

bibliobibuli said...

don't like these hypermarkets at all either. too big, too unfriendly, and the quality of the produce isn't that great. i guess they are aiming at low income earners and bulk buyers.

i also get attacks of agoraphobia in spaces like this ... find them hard to deal with

i shop at village grocers which is convenient and has very nice fruit and veg.

Anonymous said...

The bookstore chains have made a bold move and should be applauded. I will be getting my copy of Harry Potter at the original price to show my support of the bookstore chains.

Chet said...

Is it the distributor at fault for making the book available to non-bookstores to sell? Or is it just business to them, to supply whoever wants the book, even the neighbourhood mamak shop?

At one point, we were so happy to see the likes of Cold Storage having a book section. But I guess that's different cuz CS was selling quite hard-to-find paperbacks, and at less than RM10.00, too.

I've been shopping for my groceries at CS IKANO because it's the only store that would let me in with my work bag whereas Tesco would ask that I put it in a cubby hole while Giant in One Utama would want to put it in a plastic bag and seal it.

Sorry for rambling on ...

Anonymous said...

I actually think they have no grounds for complaints. Really, pricing HP at RM100 when a hardback only costs around RM60 is too much!

And since when was it okay for a retailer to demand that the supplier put a ceiling price and not sell to "non-participants"? It's a free market...everyone is entitled to be a seller or buyer.

I think giant bookstores are getting out of hand with their pricing and etc. Paying RM100 for the cost of A&P by a giant who can really actually afford to price the book lower is, IMHO, just silly.

Chet said...

PS ...

>> four major bookshop chains, MPH, Times, Popular and Harris ...

I thought Harris and Popular are one and the same? In Singapore, Harris is the "English" section of Popular. And my Popular members' card has the word "Harris" on it, too.

Looking at the bookshop chains listed, where's Borders and Kino?

Anonymous said...

For those who are not aware, the retail price of a book is set by the distributor. In this case, by Penguin Books.

Sheena said...

Interestingly enough, here in the UK the bookstores have taken to selling HP7 at half price, ie. 8 pounds 99p, or a little more than half of Bloomsbury's original price.

'course, I could get my copy from Asda, which is selling HP7 for 5 pounds (??!) but then it'd mean I'd miss the launch party at Waterstones :D

Chet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chet said...

What Sharon said in her comment:

"i guess they are aiming at low income earners and bulk buyers."

But from the article in The Star, it seems the lower pricing could be a way to get more Malaysians to read.

From the article:

" Tesco Malaysia division manager Janice Chan said it wanted to make sure its customers could read the book at a cheaper price.

'We are popular for selling products at a lower price and books are no exception. The other retailers have their own marketing strategies by providing freebies and other promotions ... this is our way of pleasing our customers,' she added."

Not many people can afford RM100 for a book, except the rich (or very rich). And could it be that bookstores who carry the book at full price get the freebies to give to their customers, while those who sell at a discount don't get the freebies? Do the freebies come with book orders from stores?

bibliobibuli said...

actually as i said yesterday, tesco and carrefour won't be making a profit, it's about filling their stores

hardbacks vary in price anon, most are quite a bit more than RM60

chet - yes i was happy when the supermarkets sold seconded books, they weren't in competition with anyone.

anyone who wants a cheap copy should hang on because i'm sure there will be lots of remaindered copies going for a song in a week or two and the distributors have to get rid of them

bibliobibuli said...

as i say chet, anyone who wants a cheap copy can wait a week or two. plus the major bookstores have had a discount on pre-ordered copies

i don't think tesco is really being magnanimous just whitewashing their rather dubious business practices

if tesco care about readers why don't they sell books all the time? why don't they intitiate projects to put books in the hands of the poorest?

hypermarkets, i throw down the gauntlet

bibliobibuli said...

sheena - all the undercutting in the uk has had a v. detrimental effect on the industry as a whole and has to a large extent meant the death of independent bookstores. in the end the customer is the loser.

nel said...

haloooooooo ... anybodyyyyy hereeeee ... hummm ... everybody must be having a ball with their broomstick and pointed hats at some potty gathering ... i might as well talk to myself like i usually do ...

well, i would wait cause i am not really a fan of harry potter. anyway, i don't prefer hardback, don't really have the space.

... heh, heh ... ;)

Chet said...

"if tesco care about readers why don't they sell books all the time? why don't they intitiate projects to put books in the hands of the poorest?"

That would be a good CSR project for them. Unfortunately, I'm no longer in a position to suggest it. (Ex employer is a minority shareholder ... )

Anonymous said...

No more hypermarkets for me!

Anonymous said...

boycotting hypermarkets just becos of Harry Potter? GROW UP!

sheesh.

anyway, i am all for cheaper books. and i don't care who sells them. books, like CDs and DVDs, are overpriced.

u think JK Rowling is going to starve becos the hypermarkets undercut the price of her books? anyway, why don't the big stores also complain about the online bookstores, which also offer HP at discounted early bird prices?

i can understand if the indie bookstores complain, but i think the big stores are just making an ass of themselves.

hooray Kinokuniya!


btw, MPH has a very poor selection of books.


Viz

Dzof said...

This all makes sense. Of course you'll have someone trying to be more competitive by offering the same product at a cheaper price. It's free market economics.

You basically are saying you want something like the Net Book Agreement (NBA) in Malaysia, where everyone is forced to sell the same book at the same price.

(You could also be saying that only bookshops should be able to sell books, but that is ridiculous - I think there is poor reason for books to be a strictly controlled commodity, despite what the censorship board may think)

As somebody who has invested and worked in an independent book store, I would agree that a NBA would help make such stores competitive (but I am not sure that it would necessarily ensure its survival). That's the good about the NBA.

On the other hand, the NBA results in a cartel, where the price of books is not strictly driven by the pull and push of consumer demand versus cost, but purely by how much profit they can eke out of a given title.

Because demand for the HP books are going to be high, it makes sense for the bookshops to try and charge as much as they can for the books. This is not good for the consumer (insofar for consumers who want HP books).

Tesco and Carrefour on the other hand want to use the books to drive traffic to their stores, and are willing to charge the minimum. (I estimate they only make RM10 a book, compared to MPH who would be making maybe RM60 per book - assuming MPH distribution gets it at a cheaper price than Tescos.)

Now, I am somebody who is against price-fixing of commodities. I understand that it may work for essentials like petrol, or the price of rice, because they have a knock-on effect, but you cannot use the same argument for a fictional novel.

Of course, I also understand the counter-argument that the sales of these high-ticket items mean that the bookshop can also offer low-interest titles at a competitive price, but I feel that the lowering cost of duplication and technologies such as print-on-demand mean that this argument is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I don't want to grow up. Being a grown-up sucks big time!

bibliobibuli said...

hmmm ... would a net book agreement help or even be possible?

i guess i just feel sorry for the booksellers as they are in what must be surely one of the most unpredictable businesses of all. books are expensive to import, to warehouse and to promote.

in the UK the hypermarkets have done a great deal of damage to the book retail industry and we should learn from what has happened there

i have nothing against supermarkets/hypermarkets / mamak stores selling books ... in fact i like the idea, and in the past have highlighted this on this blog. but in this specific instance i feel that they have acted greedily and cynically by announcing their decision to undercut at the very last moment (i.e. yesterday)

viz - i like cheap books every bit as much as you and anyone who waits a while will get this one cheap too so don't get stressed out anyone!

the mph doesn't have a good selection argument is not relevant to this discussion, is it? (though is true sadly)

nel said...

i see some very good argument here and i still can't take side at this point, but this does remind of the show that goes "you got mail" ... lol ... the big bookstore is gonna eat up the smaller one anyway ... hummmm ... independent bookstore? ... i am not really sure of that sharon ... i think it all about business ... maybe someday i will start one myself with a cafe ... yah, dream on ... lol ... do love this industry anyway ... :)

sharkgila said...

The whole thing is turning into one huge ant-climax for the last Potter book. I'm of the opinion that the hypermarkets are to blame, though I won't stop getting my weekly household products from them.

More on my opinion here.

bibliobibuli said...

the guys who run the independent bookstores here (raman and thor foremost among them) are in it for the love of books subsidising the business from the other things they do (publishing, training)

a small bookshop is a nice dream but not a viable business proposition in the current climate

nel said...

another thing i like to add here, when i read the morning paper today about the pull back ... my impression was they are sour grape ... i have spend good amount of money on books in all this bookstore ... they should have stand their ground and make better events to boost loyalty reading community where reading become personal and fun ... pulling back only show that they are cold and just as ruthless and business like ... please don't get me wrong here ... i am not against or with but just thinking in pr terms ... who knows this will help if such incident happen again ... :)

bibliobibuli said...

nel - i reckon there will be a lot of disappointed fans this morning. i was going to go over and take some photos at mph.

but no point selling the book at all if their price is so badly undercut

Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...

When the previous Potter book came out, what one of the indie sellers here in Melbourne did was go to a big chain like Myers with a trolley, buy up every single heavily-discounted Harry Potter book they had, then resell them at his store. Made quite a profit, too.

And the people at Myers didn't even bat an eye.

nel said...

here is my comment on sharkgila blog and i thought it would be helpful and debatable here as well ...

i was just wondering when you are gonna take a "shark-bite" on this one ... lol ... i will still stand by going with bookstore selling at retail price and not pull back commented at sharon place. On the long run it a good pr image for not potter fans but still buying books from them. It just like eating char keaw teow at a poch place where a person is paying for an environment or by the road side. Now, it looks like bookstore wants more profit out of the hype. I can understand that they have spend money on marketing strategy and some have ride the wave and a last minute kill was done to the plan. A good lesson to be learn here and should think far as well. Win some loose some, but still ride the wave. No publicity is consider bad publicity, it just publicity. That is how the ride goes.

Hope you don't mind my comment being honest here rather than me trying to be protocol ... :)

Anonymous said...

Mamak shops selling books?

now THAT's a novel idea!

what i'm saying is, MPH has a bad selection of books anyway, so who cares? let's go Kino!


Viz

nel said...

From my book shopping experience, different bookshop have a different selection of books to entice different readers, that is my personal experience when i spend my time at all these bookstores ... :)

kam raslan said...

By sheer coincidence I was at The Curve incredibly early this morning and looking for somewhere to go when I stumbled on the Harry Potter thing at Borders. There didn't seem to be as many people as I would have expected although there still were quite a few, and of all ages. It was good to see people dotted around reading the book, and also buying plenty of other books. One young boy had been given an allowance to buy some books and was struggling to make a decision. The only downside was that Starbucks coffee is so incredibly bad.

It's surprising to see Malaysians complaining about being able to get something more cheaply somewhere else. I never thought I'd see the day. It is a sad irony that as books get cheaper it threatens the whole industry. The same has happened in the music business where nowadays new bands can only survive by playing live gigs and the album is a mere shop front. Prince gives away his albums but was the biggest grossing live act last year.

I wonder if these Harry Potter kids will be the last generation to be able have the excitement of buying books. I bought a copy of Dickens' David Copperfield for a mere RM8.50.

bibliobibuli said...

kam - I wonder if these Harry Potter kids will be the last generation to be able have the excitement of buying books.

that is such a sad thought ...

i was drifting around reading some of the kids blogs and there seems to be a lot of anger ... at the bookstores for overpricing rather than at the hypermarkets for their sleazy undercutting ...

Anonymous said...

En. Kam Raslan,

musicians have long been making their money on the road. CD and record sales have never amounted to much. that's why bands tour like mad. for both promotion and money from live gigs. the labels take almost everything from record sales. i don't think there's any comparison there with the book industry. another factor is that ppl can now download music off the internet. i don't think downloading books is that much of a trend yet.


Viz

jesscet said...

hi, thanks for visiting my blog and for ur sympathy.. :)

i agree with your view totally. i mean the hypermarkets are doing it for the sake of drawing customers and in process sabotaging all other bookstores! it's sad that some of the bookstore chain decided to boycott but i can understand their principal of protest - just that it's such anti-climax to the fans...

as for me, i was upset for while but had collected my pre-ordered copy and going to enjoy the book!

Chet said...

A friend told he got his copy of the last HP from MPH One Utama this morning. Or rather, his sister did. I thought MPH was not selling the book? Or maybe the decision didn't reach all its outlets in time.

bibliobibuli said...

chet - i think he was talking about the pre-ordered copy ...

azman said...

MPH ain't as hot as some of you'd like to think. Months ago, MPH offered a 20% discount for those who pre-ordered really early. Today at MPH Subang Parade, although I showed them my receipt, I was told to pay up the 20% 'discount'. That means I ended up paying the whole price. What's up with that? Still think MPH's so fantastic??

bibliobibuli said...

azman - if you were promised a 20% discount for pre-ordering you should have got one!

please contact:

marketing@mph.com.my

and if you don't hear back let me know and i will put on my wonder woman costume and chase 'em

Poppadumdum said...

From the Star's website:
Murder, lies and drugs

"The accused:Ong Chee Leong and Ying Ying’s mother Jess Teh has been charged with murdering Shearwey Ooi Ying Ying, three, whose brutal death stunned the nation...."

'Has' ???????????? Truly execrable and bad English for a nation's daily! You 'has'holes!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect Sharon, this thing about the bookstores being in the book busines because they care about book reading and culture is hogwash, at least as far as MPH is concerned.
Since Azman mentioned MPH Subang Parade, I'd like to chip in here though it may be only tangential. I was there last Sunday with my family and had to endure one of the most embarrassing moments of my life at the hands of MPH employees whose behaviour and attitude convince me that MPH cares little about book lovers.
Since that humiliating experience I have decided not to set foot on any MPH bookstore anymore. I have also cut up my readers' circle card even though I still have some rebate balance left from my previous purchases.
All this stems from an incident involving what I would term as truly kiasu conduct on the part of MPH staff over my taking some unpaid for books into their cafe. I was questioned first by a uniformed executive and finding that I was rather recalcitrant, he called in a colleague who looked like some house detective to cart away the books that I had left on the table where I was sitting. Imagine the ignominy. I had just ordered some food and drinks, and was of course going to take my time browsing them, which is what I have been doing at places like Borders.
This was a matter of dignity. I did not feel that I had to explain that if he bothered to check my account I had been spending an average of RM3,000 yearly on books at MPH stores and as for the cafe there I was a regular patron spending about RM70 per visit for the food and drinks. Was I going to buy those books? It was really beside the point. As a matter of fact, I had intended to buy at least three of the five books that I had taken but why should I have to explain myself in the first place? Sharon, don't bother to ask for an explanation. They will tell you it's their policy not to allow unpaid for books into the cafe. So much for fostering reading culture. Res ipsa loquitur.

sharkgila said...

Erm, with all due respect anonymous, it is stated clearly that you're not allowed to bring unpaid books into the cafe. I get the impression they care about books (hence no unpaid books in f&b area) as well as book lovers. The two books you might not have ended buying will be bought by someone else who wouldn't want their new purchase 'soiled'.

bibliobibuli said...

anonymous - i was actually referring to the independent booksellers as you will see for yourself if you read back carefully.

i can sympathise with your embarrassment. i got told off for taking pictures of the book with my name on the cover in kinokunyia (i was feeling proud of them) and that stung a bit. and another time when a guard there told me off for sitting on the floor to look at some books.

i think mph have a sign up saying you cannot take books you haven't paid for into the cafe. that i think is fair enough. i have bought sticky books from borders and i don't terribly like it.

but i think bookshop staff should be tactful ... a gentle reminder is enough

poppadumdum - don't be alarmed over bad english in the local papers, it's on every page plenty plenty

bibliobibuli said...

sharkgila - just saw your response, almost the same as mine haha

Anonymous said...

i think it is also stated clearly that among the things prohibited in a bookstore are cameras. it's usually stated on the signboard at the entrance.


Viz

Poppadumdum said...

Does anyone share my view that the guards in Kinokuniya are terribly arrogant?

gnute said...

Sharon, this trend of selling at a lower price has hit New Zealand shores as well, where our supermarkets are selling Harry Potter cheaply just to get the customers in the door. But come to think of it, this isn't such a new thing since most supermarkets sell Coke at a negative to get customers buying anything else.

From Chet's quote of a news item: "Tesco Malaysia division manager Janice Chan said it wanted to make sure its customers could read the book at a cheaper price." Uh... As if. As if they care.

It's a crazy world :)

Chet said...

Similar situation when bookstores work with newspapers to offer discount coupons in conjunction with reviews of specific books, and when readers go into the bookstores to get those books, they usually end up getting other books. I speak from experience.

uncle said...

Sharon,

You have a dynamic blog with views from many different perspectives which I find very informative. Particularly on this issue. Thank you! Great job!

bibliobibuli said...

uncle - honestly that's the joy of it. i see my posts just as conversation kickers and let my friends do the talking!

gnute - the use of "loss leaders" is a common business practice. i think that what has happened in malaysia is just part of a worldwide trend.

chet - yeah, me too. i have banned myself from bookshops again until i read a few more titles already on my shelves.

viz - you are quite right of course ... but i had to snap MY book *sigh*. actually i happily snap away in other bookshops though i ask permission first and have found the staff to be pretty gracious about it.

poppadumdum - give a guy a uniform ...

Anonymous said...

Sharkgilla et al, You're missing the point. I'd already said: "They will tell you it's their policy not to allow unpaid for books into the cafe. So much for fostering reading culture. Res ipsa loquitur."
Why such a policy? Sticky books? You should demand a new copy. That shouldn't be sold in the first place. The book stores are minting - except of course for the independents like Silverfish and Skoobs - so what's a couple of soiled books to be withdrawn from sale as part of the public service? I remember some ten years ago there was Book Chamber in Bangsar where you could spend hours reading and not having to buy anything.

Your kind of thinking was what the Americans were subjected to three decades ago before consumers decided that the likes of Barnes and Nobles and Borders must stop this kind of nonsense. Hence, at Borders and B & N today, you can treat the place as a library as long as you buy your drink. If you don't want the books to be spoiled, then provide ample tables and chairs.

Madcap Machinist said...

couldn't the bookstores say, "did you get your HP7 at Tesco? Show us your receipt and get 10% off other books from our store"

I'd gladly save rm40 at Tesco then walk over to MPH and get another book...

bibliobibuli said...

hmmm one of my less than perfect books from borders was the last copy and although i accepted its well thumbedness i didn't discover that it had the damage until later but was too lazy to go back for a refund. i didn't see the dollop of jam on the cover of another book till later either. it had simply been put back in the pile.

i will be much more careful about examining books from borders in future and ask for a discount if they are the last copies

i think you are making a very valid point here and it should be part of a larger debate about what we want from our bookshops

i've blogged about how bookshops need to be squidgy and you might find this of interest

bookshops need lots of comfortable spaces for customers to browse copies, and in malaysia only borders really has it right

remember though, that spoiled copies (as many copies will inevitably end up being) could result in slightly higher prices.

but back to that argument - where else but bookshops are you allowed to so completely sample a product you haven't paid for?

bibliobibuli said...

machinist - wouldn't that be like endorsing what the hypermarkets are doing?

anyway the bookshops didn't have much time to react since they only knew about it, i think, when the ad came out in the papers. the other point is that these booksellers agreed to stick together ... so any decision taken would probably have to be agreeable to all

Anonymous said...

i could never understand why ppl would want to sit for hours to "sample" a book before buying it. go read reviews or browse synopses online. i usually already know what i want to buy, and if i do come across a book that looks interesting, i turn to the back for a synopsis. and all i ever need is to read the first paragraph to know if i would like the writer's style. if there's a designated browsing copy, only then would i sit and read it.

Miss Bib, we've been down this road of discussion before. i've met a lot of these inconsiderate kiasu browsers (such as Anon), and they don't care what happens to the books, as long as they get to "browse" (ie. most times, it's "free reading"). some even lean on the books on the shelves while reading. some just simply leave the book lying where they had sat withut returning it to its proper place so that others looking for the book may find it.

well, Americans have guns. why don't you ask for gun rights here as well? when has what Americans do been a benchmark for everything?

i think the needs of those who want their books in good condition and the book sellers trying to minimise losses from damaged goods, far outweigh the needs of inconsiderate browsers.

until the day browsers learn to behave, i say shrink wrap all books! keep them dirty grimy hands off the products!


Viz

Anonymous said...

oops, the part about Americans and guns is directed at Anon.


Viz

Madcap Machinist said...

The hypermarkets don't need endorsing, it is simply business to them. That said, the Big 4's response didn't actually stop the hypermarts from making the sales. Telling them to stop selling books and stick to beans doesn't make sense, like cafes telling bookshops to stop selling coffee indoors because bookbuyers won't come out to lepak at their stores.

I'm not saying that it's fair-play, in other industries major players sometimes throw their weight around and sell products at a loss to penetrate the market because they can afford to do so, while us little fish fume at being undercut. I don't think I need to cite examples.

Yes, the boycott puts pressure on the distributor to ensure that its retail channels play nice with each other, but at the end of the day it's the customers who are left high and dry.

I just feel that the boycott is an over-reaction (as is this Potter-mania as a whole), and the bookshops could have found a way to
constructively respond to the hypermarkets' strategy.

I went to Kino yesterday evening where I saw stacks of HP7 and only a few buyers--hardly the frenzied mobs that the media is suggesting.

As for myself, I skimmed through the book when I got it (pre-ordered from MPH), effectively spoiling myself, then put it aside. How's that for protest? Really, if all that matters is knowing what happens, it seems that nobody actually knows what reading is all about.

p/s with Viz on that particular thread, a bookshop isn't a library
-- MM whose pet peeve is finding books on the wrong shelves.

bibliobibuli said...

I just feel that the boycott is an over-reaction (as is this Potter-mania as a whole), and the bookshops could have found a way to
constructively respond to the hypermarkets' strategy.


okay then, like what?????

if they let this go then it will happen again

i also prefer my books shrink wrapped but think bookshops should keep browsing copies - kino does this rather well. (but still can't take 'em up to the snack bar)

i'm a commando bookbuyer like viz. i know exactly what i want and swoop and then get to hell out before i do more damage than necessary to my credit card

Madcap Machinist said...

Keep selling the books, as a start. A bookshop is still a bookshop.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

oops, the part about Americans and guns is directed at Anon.

Well, the choice is yours, if you want to continue in serfdom. It looks like you're the mental kiasu here calling names and all that. Travel a bit my friend and see for yourself what browsing is all about. Don't jump to conclusions. I have been browsing all these years and at the same time I have amassed quite a library having spent more than a quarter of my annual income on books. And as for the discourse on gun laws and freedom and democracy this is not the forum nor do I think you have the intellectual capacity to engage in it! (sorry Sharon, the argumentatum ad hominem was started by this reply, no intention of triviliazing your blog)

nel said...

... first of all I agree with Uncle on Sharon's blog. Second, I do agree with Machinist as well and I have decided not hold back to get HP at Tesco. I think the value of books has reach a new level of playing field and I see a good market opportunity for competition.

Next time state the value and be creative for what a buyer paying for and don't run off making a fast one. It just too bad if others find an opportunity in such a strategy to be an advantage. That is what startegy marketing is all about.

Last but not least, J. K. Rowling has done extremly well as a very respected children fiction author on my list now, and very well deserve. The very best in my thinking. Good for her and she really deserve to be a billionaire ... :)

Daniel Lim said...

Woke up in the morning and to read the newspaper regarding the HP price war... and i was thinking..."Cool..." this is like duh awesome... this is war!!!... And I sure hope Tesco and Carrefour get sued or something, those supermarkets are just lame and even though i'm not a hardcore potter fan, I'll just have to support you fans that bought HP7 @ RRP because that's what it's supposed to be... Just imagine if Windows Vista Ultimate was sold at 100 ringgit... If readers would want a cheaper price, let them wait till it goes down then... How silly... now whoever is planning to organize a riot and burn down Tesco and Carrefour shopping malls, please... i want to join in... Coz the chicken rice there sucks... Yar... but the only thing i want from Tesco there right now is their Chocolate Coated Digestive Biscuits which I have to say, is the only thing there that roxx (maybe its because its imported from England...)... this comment is total BS... delete it if you want..

bibliobibuli said...

thanks machinist - put that reference up front! so the hypermarkets were selling at a substantial loss.

daniel - they did nothing illegal though, so no suing and no riots!!

nel said...

This also got me thinking on something else ... how much do you think the paperback will be if the hp mania does last? ... :)

uncle said...

If the hypermarkets destroy healthy competition among booksellers by creating loss leaders at booksellers' expense, tomorrow these booksellers may not exist. This is because hypermarkets can sustain losses from books (not their bread and butter) while booksellers have books only. Imagine! Malaysians will only get bestselling titles from hypermarkets because it's too costly for them to carry 50,000 titles like a normal bookstore.

It is reported in The Star that, "The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal views the price war among book retailers over the latest Harry Potter book as a move that benefits consumers."

I am afraid that's a very short sighted view.

animah said...

Gosh, is this the highest number of comments ever? JK Rowling beat Sir Salman.

Anonymous said...

You spoilt brat-just because u can afford the retail price of Rm109.90 doesn't give u the licence to condemn the supermarkets from selling it at discount or giving it away free like Kinokuniya. By all means buy your ground coffee from Starbucks, at least those who don't have rich parents or sugar daddies can get to own a copy of HP.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read your profile before making the above comments, and thought u were an immature teenager. I guess immature still applies to your arguements in addition to "an axe to grind".

bibliobibuli said...

am having a great and enjoyable laugh at "spoilt brat"

yes dear, i'm probably old enough to be your grandmama and reckon i know a fair old bit about the book trade esp. in malaysia and worldwide

if one thing shocks me at the moment it seems to be that those blogging about this issue don't seem to be able to grasp the basic issues involved. esp. about the economics.

i need to do a for dummies version of all this, clearly ... in the style of harry potter!

Anonymous said...

Dear All Blogger,

It is a very interesting subject that each and everyone had brought up here. Let we see one at a time:

Malaysian Reading Culture
If you notice they are Malaysian who likes to read books/magazine/Newspaper for free. It is not they are not affordable or need to read a few chapter before decide to buy. But simply because they want to have free reading. If you are at MPH MV you will find people sit at Kid Zone open up Newspaper/magazine and books to read. They just finish read the whole thing like nobody business and then just left it there. Worst! You will also notice people take whole stack of magazine and sit at the MRC lodge to spend their whole day reading there. Bookshop at western world will provide comfortable seat for people to sit down and read before they decide to buy because they are really read through a few page or chapter only. Malaysian? They will finish the whole book. Today can not finish, tomorrow come back to continue. That's why even Kinokuniya had taken out most of their chair out. In MPH even if you don't have seat they will sit on the floor. It is not a healthy reading habit/culture. If you are a books lover you will not like to see the books damage. You will not believe how much damage books had been write off due to Malaysian reading habit.

Harry Potter Price War
From Blogger to Press media, there is a lot of argument. Let put our thinking shoe on every party.
Hypermarket - Do they Kill Bookstore? Bookstore also could earn their living from others books. So what does this make different? The books range in hypermarket relatively smaller than bookstore. Will one product kill them? As for HP case, they had provided opportunity for customer to enjoy reading at affordable price. Hence it also reduces the buying of pirated books.

Readers - It is their choice of buying at where and at what price them willing to pay. Willing buyer, willing seller. For HP it is an excitement for some people who like to buy from bookshop. Why? Cause they could enjoy the HP atmosphere at the bookshop. That's why Kinokuniya had spent so much on the decoration. What? You think HP fans like to have their books purchased and take some photo with the groceries?

Bookstore - Yes! Who will like to do business at a lost? But HP had increased our reading culture. In long run, the reader will come back for more books other than HP. There are lot readers who don't mind to pay more and who also like the freebies that the bookstore offered. By boycotting, they had denied the reader right. In other words they had commit suicide by disappointing the reader and in turn reader will boycott them. The Book chain had also killing smaller shop or each other by throwing discount too. Like Chinese say: "Only allow the government to put on fire, citizen is not allow to put up a light." This is very contradicting and a slap back to their argument.

Distributor/ Publisher - Is it wrong to limiting the HP to sell at one place? I believe they had done a very good job. At least every customer could get a copy in their hand. I presume they had spent a lot on warehousing, shipping and manpower to bring the HP joy to reader. I presume they had spent a lot to promote HP. If they had control the discount to be given to reader. A lot of reader might not able to enjoy reading. I believe the chain had enjoy a much higher margin from them but yet not willing to scarify. How much discount the chain will expect? Who is the one that care about profit made from HP? It is only a matter of making more or less $$.

sweetden7al said...

I am one of those 'kids' who bought their copy at Tescos. Every bookstore had their own marketing ploy for Harry Potter: giving away free copies and freebies, why should reducing the price be any different from being another marketing strategy? Seriously, can everyone afford to be self righteous? What do you think of Kinokuniya giving away weekly discounts on various books in The Star then? There is nothing sleazy about making a popular book more available for the masses, again, all about marketing. Was there a binding agreement to sell the book at retail price? You speak of indie bookstores suffering losses, they appeal to a different target consumers altogether. They have their own niche.

sweetden7al said...

oh and about your comment on those wanting a cheap copy should hang on, it is not possible for fans coz you know how spoilers abound everywhere! Even wiki has the whole plot outlined already! Just stating as example, I avoided the net totally when I was reading, but can't totally avoid people who are the ultimate spoilers, heh.

Chet said...

>> Gosh, is this the highest number of comments ever? JK Rowling beat Sir Salman.

No, Xeus beats both Rowling and Sir Salman. At last count, the entry on "Stolen City" had 80 comments.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks anon - esp on the something for nothing culture. i think it's fine to encourage readers to sit and read for free ... they'll get the habit and get hooked

you do realise though that undercutting (selling at or below cost price) by hypermarkets in the UK (tesco foremost among them) has lead to the closing of bookshops (both independent and chains) which couldn't compete?

the bookshops here are no making huge profits at all, in fact i've said before, i wonder how all of them can survive

still you're the customers ... make your choice

sweeetden - that 's it, isn't it. you want it now so you're in with the crowd!

i know that if i buy a newly released hardback from the uK it will be expensive. in often pay RM100 or so for a book i'm desperate to read esp because i like hardbacks. but i know that if i wait there will be cheaper editions. and i know that if i want great books very cheaply i can wait for the warehouse sales.

seems to be that malaysian consumers want everything!!!!! kiasu lot!

chet - yeah funny huh!

bibliobibuli said...

sweeden - sorry another point. the discount vouchers are fine - the bookshop still makes a profit on the book.

here tesco was selling without making a profit on the books to undermine the bookshops.

illegal, no. morally wrong ...? you're right, this is business and moral scruples don't come into it.

Chet said...

It seems the dirty price way thingy also happened in the UK. Just read a comment on Pak Adib's blog that ASDA was selling HP7 at £5.00.

bibliobibuli said...

yes. the bookshops in the UK cannot possibly afford to sell at these prices because the supermarkets are selling at a loss

one major bookshop chain - ottakers - was forced to close down because to this practice

the trouble is that most of those offering opinions on this issue locally haven't a clue about the larger implications. there is much ignorance being spouted in the star today too inc on the letter page

Chet said...

Norwich used to have an Ottakers that I got to visit last year. Soon after my visit, it was taken over, I think by Waterstone. Through no fault of mine, I'm sure!

Madcap Machinist said...

Anon:

"That's why Kinokuniya had spent so much on the decoration. What? You think HP fans like to have their books purchased and take some photo with the groceries?"

Well, they can pretend it's the Hogsmeade market, and it wouldn't be hard to find a broom for an impromptu photo...

bibliobibuli said...

no photos in kino!!!

nel said...

wow ... soooo much comments, never had so much fun reading posting before for a long long time ... ding-dong lift ging up ... :D

smallkucing said...

Though when I got to know that hypermarkets are selling HP7 at a lower price, I feel cheated coz i have pre-ordered my copy at a higher price.

I feel cheat not by the bookstores but by the hypermarket. Why didn't they make their announcement a few months earlier if they truly want customer to enjoy a cheaper rate?

Then I got to know that hypermarkets are selling at a loss. Why? whats their motive?

I agree with the bookstores action which is to boycott.

Anonymous said...

Smallkucing, because they can. Maybe they thought that because bookstores were conspiring to artificially inflate book prices, they needed to be taught a lesson. Bookstores are supposed to be competitors, how can they be conspiring to set prices ? I know in the computer memory market, some companies were fined for conspiring to keep prices high.

Why do people support protectionism ?

Anonymous said...

"Why didn't they make their announcement a few months earlier if they truly want customer to enjoy a cheaper rate?"

because they didn't know they could pull it off ?

"Though when I got to know that hypermarkets are selling HP7 at a lower price, I feel cheated coz i have pre-ordered my copy at a higher price."

Do you know lots of people paid for Internet browsers before they were free ? that a computer used to cost Rm10K, not including the software, which would set you back probably another 5K ? now we have free browsers, cheap (or free) operating systems, and low-prices PCs. Why do you guys like to pay high prices for stuff ?

Think about people poorer than you who still want to get it at launch day. People talk about rights, what about their right to sell anything at a loss if they want to ?

Anonymous said...

smallkucing:

Wow, your short observation says it all: It's all about business ethics. If the hypermarket really concern about giving the best price for their customers, they SHOULD have announced it months earlier.

And with the statement they've made in defend of their price-dropping, they have totally contradicted themselves.

observer said...

"Smallkucing, because they can. Maybe they thought that because bookstores were conspiring to artificially inflate book prices, they needed to be taught a lesson. Bookstores are supposed to be competitors, how can they be conspiring to set prices ?"

Read the blog/ newspapers etc before you send this comment. The book price is determined by the book distributors & publishers.

Anonymous said...

Maybe people should ask themselves why they want the price to be high. Legally lower prices for the same things are always better regardless of the reason, right ? that's what capitalism and competition is all about. If I can sell lower than you, I will. If I can use any legal way (lower price, better service, better quality etc.) to get ahead of the competition, I will. That's how it's supposed to be, right ?

As for why they never announced it earlier, well that's probably good strategy.

nel said...

here is another thing for debate ... retail price and not fix price ... it's between the cost value and the value of the market to whoever see fit ... give it away as free promotional item even as anyone see fit ... some rich fella might even buy and donate it to the poor as reading material ... really it's up to anyone to see ... harry potter will still be harry potter in the end ... ding-dong lift going up ... anybody? ... :)

animah said...

This is why we need competition/anti trust law and a Competition Commission. In countries with developed competition law, it is illegal to sell below cost when the intention is to destroy the competition and capture the market. It will be interesting to see whether the UK bookstores lodge a report against ASDA/Tesco to the UK Office of Fair Trading/Competition Commission (sorry not sure what they're called).

Anonymous said...

Bookstores NOT at fault. Book prices are set by distributors and publishers, not bookstores. The RM 69.90 offered by the hypermarts is BELOW cost price. This is not healthy discounting but predatory pricing which disrupts the book industry and their businesses. Genuine bookstores are being made to look like they’re greedy and profiteering in this situation, which they’re not. They are right in not selling this book. The public and consumers need to understand their stand...
They should continue going to the hypermarts to get the book at RM 69.90... IF THEY CAN FIND ANY!!

bibliobibuli said...

anon - This is not healthy discounting but predatory pricing which disrupts the book industry and their businesses. Genuine bookstores are being made to look like they’re greedy and profiteering in this situation, which they’re not. They are right in not selling this book. The public and consumers need to understand their stand...

precisely!

animah - i don't know what will happen in the UK. i think asda did not get their copies in the end anyway.

nel said...

Actually there is still a lot left around but I won't be so bad. Harry Potter may not be as popular as everyone thinks. At least it not a need to every single person in this world. Such books fall under leisure, which actually means a person pay as they see fit to the value. Very much like coffee these days.

As for another one, it it wrong to give away for RM2 a plate that its worth cost price RM5, for every purchase of RM50 spend on a single bill. The plate is not Harry Potter of course ...

... ding-dong, lift going up ... anybody? ... :)

observer said...

ANON:
This is not healthy discounting but predatory pricing which disrupts the book industry and their businesses. Genuine bookstores are being made to look like they’re greedy and profiteering in this situation, which they’re not. They are right in not selling this book. The public and consumers need to understand their stand...

ABOSULUTELY AGREE!

Nothing comes free and cheap. If it does, you've better watch your back.

nel said...

Here is another question ... of course we have seen the competition here and survival cases presented. Well, has anybody thought of answers for the even smaller ones like the individual bookstores, or rather independent bookstores to the medium ones? How are they to survive or maybe we have here concluded the answer to that. Have we overlook them? ... :)

bibliobibuli said...

nel - good question but one answered in a recent post ... the only independent bookseller i know about is raman of silverfish and he decided early on that he couldn't afford to sell the book at all as he couldn't compete with the discounts given by the bookstores!!

and he is laughing now at this whole thing

basically the independent bookshops lost out big time in the UK too ...

Anonymous said...

Borders sold out all copies of the book, despite "predatory pricing". so wats MPH and Times and Popular got to say now?



Viz

bibliobibuli said...

am glad for borders but 'tis beside the point of the argument, innit?

animah said...

Another 4 comments to go .... And Counting

Madcap Machinist said...

competition laws, got meh? ok go get them hypermarkets.

Anonymous said...

Did the book cartels namely YumPeeHedge, PoPweeLa & TaiAims cried wolf (when their recommended rip-off price was rm40 more than Sawan else) because Sawan else selling lower than cost or selling with little margin? There's a big difference between this two question. If the latter is true, than we, Malaysian reader, can finally be sured that there is a price-fix between these cartels where the readers are at loosing end.

With a price difference of rm40, not all Malaysian reader can sensible opt for the higher price. That's easily a week's lunch money for average working KLites. What more can i say for those living not in the big cities.

bibliobibuli said...

i think you just are not reading what has been said already very carefully

*stifles big yawn*

Anonymous said...

anon - "...price-fix between these cartels . . ."

unlikely becoz this may be the only time these 3 'enemies' work together on a common objective

normally they would be cutting each other's throat

and as noted by another anon above - "Book prices are set by distributors and publishers, not bookstores."

bibliobibuli said...

they ain't a cartel :-D

believe it or not they ain't enemies either ... from what i've observed at social gatherings and talking to management

don't forget for e.g. that mph is a distributor and publisher too

hey animah - we're over 100 comments now!

nel said...

Is this your highest posting commented, Sharon? Can't say I didn't enjoy debating here on this one ... lol ... great to know you guys ... cheers for the day in whatever you guys are acheiving out there for the day ... :)

Anonymous said...

there are still many ppl who are ignorant over why carrefour and tesco cut the price so much.they are using it as a loss leader(to bring in customers to buy other stuff as well).it's just plain bad,and the big 4 got accused of selling the book at such high price.because of this,launching events by the big 4 got cancelled and i did not get to attend one(and i've never been able to attend previous launchings).i fully support what they have done.now they have come back with a vengeance,selling the book at 20 to 25 % discount!bravo!

nel said...

... *ping* ... lift going up again! Floor 105, anybody? ... :)

sweetden7al said...

well now they have conceded, so much for principles eh? still have to cari makan at the end of the day. Have they proven/changed anything? Insignificantly so.

Anonymous said...

See, NOW who is right? now they've been forced to lower the price, are they selling at a loss too ? :) they were profiteering and now they're not.. what do you guys say now :) if the distributors set the price, how were they able to lower it, the distributors lowered the price ? lol :)

Guess we now know the truth don't we, as to who sets the prices ? :) of course the distributor will set a cost price, but the store sets the selling price. Those are two different things. If all bookstores conspire to raise the selling price, then consumers will still have to pay a higher price regardless of what price the distributors set it at.

Anonymous said...

anon, it is obvious your are not from the book industry, as you obviously do not know how it really work

Anonymous said...

There's an excellent article on the HP boycott penned by Bernice Low at the link below:

http://www.malaysiakini.com/link/eNo1yFEKgCAQBcALqbtSmHYbkyWFzMhHXb/6aD4nA8dMFHuJJu0Ck1qlU64id6dlaytBIBGSMrEaAjtnvVdu4FcY9T/Q9hu2U1LMJqM+OU0ahQ==

Anonymous said...

Conjectures, conjectures, conjectures! It's hard to make people understand. They will believe what makes them happy. So sad the human race!

Anonymous said...

It's true I'm not. But you can't argue with fact, and the fact is that they have shown that they can control prices, whether directly or indirectly.

Anonymous said...

fixing link above: "Pottering " with the law of supply and demand by Bernice Low

anon 12.06: go get an economics for dummies book cheaper than potter

Anonymous said...

so many ppl stil don get it:ALL BOOKS' PRICE ARE SET BY THE DISTRIBUTOR!!!sheesh....go look up at the star's article on tuesday....they said they have reach an agreement with penguin books or something like that,suggesting that penguin books might have given the big 4 discount,and they pass it to us.....damn....some ppl are just so ignorant....that or they can't be bothered to look at 100+ post about what really is happening???

Anonymous said...

i don't know and care and bother to know who sets the price but mph, times always sells book at a very high mark ups. not just harry potter. i can get rm50 - rm70 savings each textbook from my university bookstore rather than bookshop chains. i rather travel to other university in town to get my copy textbooks if it is out of stock rather than buying it from bookstore chain. the price gap is way too high. i take the rm40 discount on harry potter from tesco anytime!

Anonymous said...

anon 12.47 :

"It seems that normally book prices in Malaysia and Singapore are fixed through the use of price fixing contracts that bind all the retailers to a set price. However, this is not done in Malaysia".

They're not contracted to sell at any price. What the distributors set is a "recommended price" or "suggested price". Nowhere do they say you HAVE to sell at that price.

"ALL BOOKS' PRICE ARE SET BY THE DISTRIBUTOR!!!"

"i can get rm50 - rm70 savings each textbook from my university bookstore rather than bookshop chains." - anon 7.03

How is this possible if they're being forced to sell at a fixed price ? the very simple fact that the same books have different prices in different bookstores would tell you that there are no fixed prices.

Anonymous said...

And Bib, I thought you'd be happy that I'm finally able to buy a book. I'm sure other poor people would be happy too. It may be easy for you to say, "keep them expensive or I won't buy from you" but the thing is, not everyone has your kind of money.

If you believe that a government should not be allowed to not allow a book to be sold, why would you believe that a government should now be allowed to not allow a book to be sold ?

I'm going to buy the first HP book now, because I can afford it, and because it's probably the best one.

Anonymous said...

i propose whoever can afford buying the rm109.90 HP7 buy that one and for whoever cannot afford this but want to own a copy of HP7 buy the cheaper 1.. deal.. wink2..

~book-aholic~

bibliobibuli said...

even if one wanted to buy the book at RM109.90 it would have been v. hard since the bookshops had discounts anyway! and *sigh* bernice low has a way with words and is right about going out of one's way to go to kino because of the choice and service, but she is doesn't seem to understand how the book retail industry works. the fall out in the UK has been to send bookshops to the wall now that price fixing has come to an end. (ottakers, many independents, and - surprise surprise - borders has withdrawn from the UK because it cannot make a profit) the bookshops that remain are so desperate to make a profit that they go for blockbuster sellers they are sure they can make their money back on.

that in the end means less choice for the consumer and authors also suffer. i've been reading article after article about it since i began this blog but didn't reckon you guys would be so interested in something happening so far away. now it's at our own doorsteps.

but who am i to argue? everyone wants something cheap cheap and now now and to hell with what happens in the long term.

i'm proud that bookshops here chose to make a stand

and if you think otherwise, try this. start a business. buy some goods. sell them for less than you paid for them. great happy feeling ain't it!

i have a very interesting article from the IHT on this issue to blog. stay tuned!