Books

I decided to stop in Dymocks today on my way to the car to pick up some new books for the holidays. I am keen to buy a number of US politics books – Ted Kennedy’s memoir, Scott McClellan’s (Bush’s speech writer) insider’s take on the Bush years – that the store had. The two, together, would have cost me near enough to $100. I was taken aback: I knew books were expensive here, but really? Two books for $100?? I put them straight back and thought that I would check out the price on Amazon. Here’s what I found:

  • True Compass: A Memoir, by Edward Kennedy, (Hardcover), $21
  • What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, by Scott McClellan, (Hardcover), $4.47

While I accept that McClellan’s book is currently on sale, it’s regularly $27. That’s still less than $50 for the two at full price. Add on shipping, it won’t tip $60. Save $40. So I kept looking around Amazon for books that are recommended reads by the ‘in the know’ pundits out there, that no stores even have here, and this is what I have added to my basket:

  • The Year of Obama: How Barack Obama Won the White House, by Larry J. Sabato, $10.17
  • War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars, by Richard N. Haass, (Hardcover), $17.87
  • How You Can Kill Al Qaeda: (In 3 Easy Steps) , by Howard Clark, $9.95
  • Going Rogue: An American Life, by Sarah Palin, (Hardcover), $9.00 (pre-order)
  • The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works , by Henry Waxman, (Hardcover), $16.49
  • Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2008 (Campaigning American Style), from the The Institute of Politics, $26.95
  • Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor, by Matthew Latimer, (Hardcover), $17.16
  • Renegade: The Making of a President, by Richard Wolffe, (Hardcover), $17.16
  • The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory, by David Plouffe, (Hardcover), $18.95 (pre-order)

I did end up buying three books from Dymocks: Two of the Penguin Classics that are $10 and another from a classics series for $12. Books I didn’t particular go out to find but (and this is the key to the book-selling industry) were at such a price that my want to read these books at some point in my life was enough to buy them. Put it this way: If they were more expensive, I wouldn’t have brought them. But because they were so cheap, I figured I might as well because I wanted new books and I wanted to read these (not knowing if they were going to be good or not). So I did. I almost brought a copy of Dante’s Inferno in paperback, but then put it back because it wasn’t cheap enough that I could be sure it wouldn’t cost me less by ordering from Amazon. Sure enough, I went looking and found the whole Divine Comedy for the same price as just Inferno. So I placed these books in with the above order:

  • Dante’s Divine Comedy: Hell, Purgatory, Paradise (Hardcover) $16.18
  • The Dore Illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, $10.17
  • Dore’s Illustrations for “Paradise Lost”, $9.95
  • The Dore Bible Illustrations, $10.85

Did I go looking for the illustration books? No. But I have always wanted a copy of the Paradise Lost illustrations ever since I read the text because I think they are great. And they help the story. So I looked for it, and I could get all three for a dicounted price. Now, I imagine the illustrations for Divine Comedy are equally impressive and help the story as much as Paradise Lost. Also, I think that having these pictures on hand could be handy as a teaching resource (not so much in the teaching of these texts, but you could use the pictures that associate with short scenes as a study in the representation of texts visually, or something). So I bundled it all together and brought that.

Now, admittedly, the $47.15 + shipping I am paying for those 4 books is more expensive than just buying Inferno at Dymocks. But the key point is that if Dymocks had had these four texts at these prices, or such a pricing that I would pay a negligable difference, then I would have brought them then and there. But they didn’t, and they wouldn’t even if they ordered them in. So why bother?

All-in-all, I’m paying $217.77 dollars for 15 books. Know what that is, on average, per the book? $14.52. Seriously, I am buying new releases, hardcovers, pre-releases, and some best sellers for $14.52. In Australia, I’d pay probably an average of $40-50 for each of those US politics books., which comes to $440-$550. I would never spend that much on books. Even adding on the shipping for these books ($79.84 – reasonable seeings how it’s 3 packages over different dates) keeps it less that $300 – a good psychological number for me. I don’t want to spend over $300 on books unless I’m getting a heap (like 15) and don’t have to go looking for them. Which is exactly what I’m getting for less than $300. Just by holding off and comparing to Amazon. It’s a natural reaction for me these days.

And I’m not having a single second thought about it.

Thomas.

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