Dollar Parity Not Reflected in Publishing

Having spent the past week in Canada, I’m all the more aware of how the Canadian dollar has strengthened to the point where it’s now just about on par with the American dollar – but Canadian book pricing is still way out of line as a result of the industry’s institutional inability to alter pricing as quickly as the dollar shifts up or down. Which is why you’re seeing a lot more stories along the lines of what the New York Times’ Ian Austen reported last Friday:

Elene Fromanger saw little evidence of the Canadian dollar’s new might

when she went shopping for health care books on Friday afternoon.

All of them were marked with separate prices for Canada and the

United States. With the Canadian dollar now at par with the United

States currency, no calculator was needed to discover that Ms.

Fromanger paid $18 more before sales tax than an American shopper would

have for the same three books.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said

outside a downtown Ottawa bookstore. “They still charge more, but the

dollar has been going up for two years. I find it inexcusable.”

…As Ms. Fromanger’s shopping trip demonstrates, the anger toward book

publishers largely stems from the fact that theirs is one of a small

number of products, including newspapers and magazines, that typically

display prices for Canada and the United States.

“We’re always

the lightning rod when the dollar goes up or down,” said Dave Hill, the

manager of Munro’s Books of Victoria, a large independently owned shop

in Victoria, British Columbia. “But it’s a lot more complicated issue

than the customers perceive.”

And so there have been price cuts, implemented as the Canadian dollar gained more strength against US currency, but there’s still a long way to go:

Diane J. Brisebois, the president of the Retail Council of Canada, said Canadian shoppers should be patient.


merchandise now on the shelves and racks in most stores, she said, was

ordered and priced at wholesale earlier this year, when the Canadian

dollar was worth about 15 percent less than it is now relative to the

United States dollar.

But she also cautioned that price

differences reflect more than just one exchange rate. Economies of

scale, different tax and cost structures, and exchange rates with third

countries all play a role, she said.

“For Canadians to believe

that our prices will be at par with American prices under any

circumstances is not realistic,” Ms. Brisebois said. “Americans have 10

times the purchasing power. That’s the reality.”

Something that certainly won’t change anytime soon.