Financial Times columnist Tim Harford reported that Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol, sold “more copies in its first 36 hours than any other adult hardback sold in total.” He also notes that the use of the word “adult” kept “a certain boy wizard” out of the calculation. The article then talks about the hugely discounted prices that the book sold for in the UK. Bookstore Waterstone’s offered a 50% discount, but some of the grocery stores discounted it even deeper, 75% in the case of Asda, which meant it lost money on each sale. Harford thinks book as loss leader for grocery stores will, in the long run, be good for the stores, the theory being that people who come in to buy the book will also buy groceries (that, presumably, are not deeply discounted).
I looked at the US online booksellers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books A Million. All three are selling the $29.95 book at $16.17, not quite a 50% discount. You may find a better price at your local grocery store, but stores such as Kroger are not adding the book’s price to its website.
Here’s what I’m wondering, though — do libraries go to grocery stores to buy books for their collections? Or are our libraries paying list price? Here’s hoping they’re getting the best deal possible on books, given shrinking materials budgets!