November 29, 21.51pm
Regular readers of this blog, both of them, will know that the price at which books are sold is a source of endless amazement to me.
Earlier today, I suggested there was a chance I might go off in search of the latest Alan Banks novel, A Piece of My Heart, having finished the previous one earlier. I certainly thought about looking into it, but with it being hardback and with a massive backlog of books to read, it seemed unlikely.
But by about 7.45pm this evening I had walked out of Waterstone's at Traflagar Square, owning said novel at an exceptional price.
For reasons too annoying and boring to go into, I found myself staying in London tonight needing a new book and headed off in search of one. In Waterstones I immediately headed into the excellent crime section near the front door of the shop and both saw and dismissed the idea of buying Robinson. Hardback, too expensive, look elsewhere.
I eventually picked up, and nearly headed to the cash desk, with a novel by another Yorkshire writer, Ann Cleeves, someone I had never heard of, but who looked quite interesting. But just as I nearly got there, I looked one more time at the featured, new books table and my eye was drawn once again to Robinson, and found a little sticker on the cover that said: "Half price at Waterstone's".
Well that at least prompted me to look inside at the RRP on the inside cover, expecting £15.99 or £16.99, which seemed a fair full price for the latest Banks. But no, £12.99. Half price therefore £6.49, and a full 50p less than the Ann Cleeves novel in my hand.
A no-brainer choice. £6.99 for an experimental grab at a writer I've not seen before - but who I will return to I think - or £6.49 for a sure-fire winner. Robinson it was.
I took the book to the till and asked the assistant: "Is it economic to sell this book at this price?"
He flicked inside the cover, checked out the price and responded: "I guess so." And then, "I know I don't care. And I suspect you don't"
And I agreed with him. But on further reflection, I don't know.
I'm sure it's not a great, big deal to Peter Robinson. I suspect more sales mean more royalties to him and any hit being taken here is being taken by Waterstone's to get people through their door and buy more books. (I nearly bought both books but decided at the last moment that I didn't want to spend 13 quid).
But it's pretty clearly bad news for the likes of Ann Cleeves, who is being hit by the massive discounting of best-selling authors, and for independent booksellers, who probably couldn't discount a £6.99 paperback to £6.49 never mind a top ten hardback.
By and large I am a supporter of market forces in the retail environment, but in the case of book sales, I honestly can't see who gains from this level of discounting.