Why warehouse sales are good, but not in the way you think

I’d like to throw in my 2 cents with regards to the warehouse sales situation in Malaysia. There has been a couple of places where this has been discussed, and is definitely worth a look see.
For the past couple of years, there has been an increase in warehouse book sales from major bookstore chains in the country. In fact, it has gotten to the point where one can look forward to a warehouse sale every couple of months. This is excellent for the general public, as the prices are low. For booklovers, it’s like heaven.
The issue raised is that of the repercussions stemming from continuous warehouse sales. There is typically a sizeable selection of books on offer in warehouse sales which are also being sold at full price from bookstores around the country. This, of course, affects business as usual, and given time, the book industry here may implode, and especially hurting local distributors and publishers.
At the heart of the discussion is the practice of ‘book dumping’, which is mass importing of remaindered books from neighbouring countries and selling them off cheap here.
I’m of the opinion that books here are expensive. At almost RM40 a pop for a mass-market paperback, it’s a pretty high barrier to entry to a lot of folks who’d simply see a better way to spend the money. For bibliophiles like myself, this is getting to be an incredibly expensive pastime.
I will never forget the feeling when I see books I rushed out to buy from bookstores, only to find them sold under RM10 in warehouse sales.
There are those who believe that books sold in Malaysian bookstores are among the most affordable anywhere in the world. That is utter nonsense. Try telling that to the average wage earner. We have to factor in the exchange rate and the cost of shipping the books over here. Compare that to someone in the States for instance, also an average wage-earner, who gets to buy a mass-market paperback for less than 10 bucks. Anyone will tell you that when you live in the country, you go by the country’s cost of living. Who cares if the book costs less here if we convert the cost of the book from USD to RM?
So from where I’m standing, warehouse sales make a lot of sense to me financially. I get the sort of buying power someone else in another country has. And the books are *new*, by golly! So go to warehouse sales! Buy great books at great prices! You have the power now to *try* new authors, and expand from your comfort zone without feeling the pinch too badly! More exclamation points!!!
Some may accuse me of being short-sighted, that supporting these sales will accelerate the demise of the book industry. The truth is you’re never going to be able to stop people from buying from warehouse sales – that’s just crazy talk. The market will always show you what works and what doesn’t. And warehouse sales are clearly working.
So what needs to happen so that we can enjoy lower-priced books without the danger of an imploding industry? Lower the book prices.
The government has always stated that it wants a learned and well-read society. It has launched the National Reading Campaign, but largely confined that to the National Library. Nothing was done to instigate growth in the general public, nothing done economically as far as I can see beyond increasing the amount for book purchases as tax relief. Let the warehouse sale be a wake-up call to the distributors and publishers to push the government to lower the prices of books in general even further.
If the prices stay as they are, well, the warehouse sales are continuing to cater to the needs of the general public.
I have more books than I can read at present. Almost all are gems that is simply calling out to be read. I’m in no hurry to purchase from regular bookstores unless they are must-have new releases (George RR Martin, Guy Gavriel Kay, HP7 (yes, stop snickering), etc).
The one thing I am worried about where warehouse sales are concerned is the obvious impact to local authors and publishers. I bought my copy of May 13 for RM20, easily the most expensive in the haul that I had. Somehow this strikes me as wrong, and it’s not because Dr Kua hasn’t written something worthy of the 20 bucks.
Preemptive Comment Responses:
Q. If price is the issue, then why not use the library? They are *free*! Or doesn’t Malaysia have libraries?
A. Sadly, libraries are not as commonplace as you’d think around here. I’d agree that having more libraries and making it more accessible is one of the ways to tackle the accessibility to books problem. But it’s not especially good for bookstore sales either, and that’s what we’re talking about.
Also, I hear our libraries are crap. I’ve not been to one in about 15 years, so I can’t really comment without looking like an idiot (if I haven’t already).


2 Comments

  1. i’m always amazed at how many bit cars ( bmws/ mercedes / four wheel drives) there are on the road here, compared to the UK, and how much jewellery people have, again compared to the UK. (not talking about all malaysians i know, by any means but.) these are probably seen as necessities, and i don’t knock that. what i do think is that people have different priorities for how they spend their money.
    i still love warehouse sales and i sneaked back to big bookshop the other day for another pile, making some great discoveries along the way, so i am not one to moralise. i also do agree that this will get people reading.
    so i am torn. yes.
    but somewhere along the line there may well be bookshop closures. maybe that matters. maybe it doesn’t.
    incidentally, i don’t really have to buy books at all now that i review them and blog about them. people keep giving them to me for free. (one publisher sent me a catalogue and told me to choose the books i wanted!) maybe you should give reviewing a go too!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Sharon.
    I’ve done some reviews (if you can call it that, hehe), but unfortunately I fall into the category of not having read widely enough and not being able to write well enough to generate much influence. 🙂 I will have to buy my books for now. 😀
    Bookstore closures are a bad thing, all things considered. The question is how many will really be affected by this, considering MPH, Times, Pay Less and Big Bookshop all indulge the masses with their warehouse sales. All of them, after all, have their own stores to think about.
    I haven’t mentioned another plus for warehouse sales: most times they have books that you cannot find in bookstores anywhere. Those are the ones I tend to look out for. 🙂
    Tangent: Malaysia is acknowledged as having one of the highest prices on cars in the world. You can’t live with ’em (the cost!!!), and you can’t live without ’em.

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