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MPH a peevish child?

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Where this book controversy thing is concerned, its a storm in a teacup.

I personally feel MPH and the ones who boycotted Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows just because some hypermarkets sold it at a lower price over-reacted. To keep things in perspective, hypermarkets and the like will NEVER replace normal bookstores.

In more developed countries like in Australia, the US, and UK, there are places like COSTCO (like MAKRO) which sell books. They are cheaper than normal bookstores but not by much when compared to a Borders or the like. Then there are specialty bookshops which sell lower volume books but at greater prices. These are shops which may sell first editions only or rare collectors books or even those of local authors. Much like Silverfish.

If you keep the market free (in other words, allowing Tescos/Carrefour their right of selling the book at whatever price they deem fit) you will eventually have a market that develops like that.

In any case, if you want to go get a specific book what do you think of first? Tescos/Hypermarkets or the bookstores? Bookstores right? Someone coined the term "mindshare." And that's exactly what it is. Bookstore occupy our minds as places to get books...FIRST. And if the bookstores do their job properly, we'll always have competitively priced books.

The other thing is, why do you think the hypermarkets priced Harry Potter the way it did? The publisher said it was below the price they sold it for. The reason for it is something very basic in marketing. "Loss leader." Something Hypermarkets do very very well. They'll "lose" money on a very popular item so that you'll be drawn into the place and then hopefully you'll buy other stuff from them? On aggregate they make more money than ever.

Can you imagine them selling something like Salman Rushdie's books at a firesale price? Not bloody likely! You'll have people either boycotting the store or scratching their heads as to who he is. Their titles are very very limited.

If we don't speak up to the "peevish" behaviour of MPHs we are going to be stuck with the bookstores we deserve. And as some of you rightly pointed out, you don't go into a Tescos/Carrefour and sit there the whole day browsing. You do that at Borders/Kinos/MPH (some of them at any rate). It's just a different experience. And that's what some of our book companies need to sit up and realise. There are some people who will always be willing to pay more.

Competition should focus you. It creates volume. It shouldn't be something you react to in fear or in self righteousness. Competition is a fact. Someone will try to sell what you're selling now cheaper and better. Live with it. All it means is good news for the consumer AND good news for those who are perhaps a little more creative with how they brand their product.