Australians, it is said, pay too much for books, though no one can say why. It is true that you can often go to Amazon and pay ten dollars less (after including shipping!) than you would pay at Borders or Readings. But is Amazon always the best place to shop?
Dan Milne wondered:
Whenever I buy books, I wonder if I’m getting the best deal—I’ve never been bothered to find a good Australian book site with good prices—it’s just so much work logging into every site and comparing them all. Then figuring out the shipping, then wondering if I should just get in the car and drive to the shops.
Then he stopped wondering and built Booko.
Booko compares prices amongst an ever-growing list of booksellers. Currently it interrogates forty booksellers, including big online stores (Amazon, Better World Books, Book Depository), Australian online stores (Booktopia, Fishpond), chain stores (ABC, Angus & Robertson, Big W, Borders, Dymocks), and independents (Abbey’s, Glee Books, Readings). It accesses data from all these booksellers, checks if the book is available from them, finds the price and cost of shipping, does any necessary currency conversions, and presents it in tabular form: Where, Price, Delivery, Total.
I did some looking. In Australia, a lot of books cost $30 in-store. On Amazon they might cost $20 shipped. Via Booko I found places that would sell them to me for a total of $10! At that price, it stops being a question of whether or not I’m going to buy it—more a question of how I’m going to store it and when I’m going to read it.
Last year I read The Atrocity Exhibition in the State Library at lunch times, because it just wasn’t available anywhere else, and it cost an arm and a leg from Amazon. I checked on Booko. Readings could order it in for $26: not bad. Amazon UK had it for $24: much better than the US, and I hadn’t thought to look there. Book Depository had it for $10: reader, I ordered it (and it arrived much quicker than it would have from Amazon).
(In fact, the Book Depository is often the best for fiction, but don’t stop using Booko. First, prices vary between Book Depository’s US and UK sites. Second, other booksellers are sometimes cheaper, especially for non-fiction. Third, there may be times when the local price may be close enough and the book is in stock right now.)
The Productivity Commission research report on Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books cites Amazon 29 times. It doesn’t mention Booko even once. Shows what they know.
If you’re an Australian who wants cheaper books, the solution is already at hand.