In the book world, Canadian prices have always been absurdly high, compared with US prices. It's always been a common complaint, and believe me, as an author who puts herself out into the frontlines by doing book signings in bookstores, it isn't always easy to listen to customers complain, berate staff or even me, or walk out angry.
With the strong Canadian dollar comes some huge savings for Canadians buying American goods or traveling to the States, but it also comes with a frightening down-side. And with the Canadian dollar reaching $1.10 last week, some bookstores have seen enraged customers go above a few nasty words. As James Adams reported in the Globe and Mail last Saturday, "the Canadian bookshop has become a charged environment, perhaps even a dangerous one." There have been two reported incidents of customers throwing books.
As a Canadian author in the middle of a 3 month book tour, I have to sadly agree with much of this article. I have witnessed angry customers taking their frustrations out on innocent bookstore staff--many of them teenagers who make $8.00/hour, if they're lucky. I've overheard loud conversations by disgruntled customers and have born the brunt of their anger as well.
Ironically, my publisher Kunati Books was the first publisher in Canada to lower prices to be closer to par. And they did this about 2 months ago.
What people don't seem to realize is that it isn't up to the bookstore, and it certainly isn't up to the author to lower prices. This is something the publisher must do, and the bigger the publisher, the bigger the financial loss. But I've heard rumors that some are coming onboard with Kunati. Since my publisher is smaller (and maybe a bit bolder), they won't have such a drastic loss. And don't forget, the author would make less as well.
People seem to forget that for every book, thousands of copies have already been printed, taking into consideration the original retail price. Many smaller publishers cannot take the hit. We have already lost too many Canadian publishers as it is.
So my advice to book lovers is: keep your cool and remember that these things take time. No one likes the high prices, not even me. But I certainly don't like customers yelling at me or my bookstore staff friends for something that is out of our hands.
Instead, I invite you to support those publishers or bookstores who have already lowered book prices. Kunati Books will be happy to sell Canadians their books (including my novel Whale Song) for near to par. Whale Song went from $16.95 to $13.95 for a trade paperback. By supporting the publishers who have already done this, you are then sending a strong message to other publishers.
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention