24 July 2007

The good wins - The Harry Porter book saga

Finally, the 3 bookstores agree to sell the book Harry Porter and the Deadly Hallows for RM69.90. As I have guessed, what will the publisher do with the stock of books that were printed and order. Instead of a total loss, the bookstores might as well sell the stock of book to cut their losses.

Incidentally, the controversy over the Harry Porter book also sparked off an article in The Star mentioning that the hypermarkets should not have sold the book at such a low price. The bookstores are not making much money as they are only selling books, magazines and stationery as compared with the hypermarkets are selling everything under the sun. When people go over to the hypermarket to buy the book, they would have also visit the hypermarkets to get other stuff. The loss in profit due to the low price in which the hypermarket is selling would be covered by the profit derived from the sale of other items in the hypermarket.

Read the article below:

Price discount a marketing ploy

American entrepreneur King Gillette famously invented the loss leader business model, in which razors were sold at a loss so that his company could profit by selling disposable razor blades.

IT WAS around about two o'clock on Saturday afternoon by the time I finally made my way to the Twin Towers.

And it was with very little resolve that I then sauntered softly up to the top floor of Suria, to what has long become my second home.

Kinokuniya Books was heaving. The queue to the check-out was longer than I had ever experienced and everyone in it was, by now, at least on chapter two.

I waited patiently for my turn. In my hand were a Bloomsbury children’s edition (I could never understand the pretence of having an edition with an “Adult” cover) and my 20% discount voucher.

I stood in line, with neither the excitement nor the fanfare of those around me. Having grown up with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Star Wars movies, and more recently, Philip Pullman’s trilogy of Dark Materials, I found myself barely affected by the ensuing phenomenon.

Regardless, the purchase of this last volume was obligatory. It was something that needed to be done. It was a lot like reading Proust. You force your way through to the bitter end unsure of why you’re even doing it because you’re too busy pretending that it’s a classic.

Whether it is a rite of passage or a necessary evil, I am yet to decide. But it is however, a conclusion to that which I had started almost ten years ago.

Now getting my hands on the RM109.90 (RM87.92 with my 20% discount voucher) copy of the book was easy enough. Queues and crowds aside, it proved to be a simple enough undertaking.

Alas, this was not the case for many Malaysians. Because if you had woken up on Saturday morning with the hope of buying yourselve a copy of the book from your local MPH, Times, Popular, or Harris bookstore, you would have been greatly disappointed.

The four major bookstore chains, in what was supposedly an act of protest, refused to stock the latest book on the boy wizard following an announcement that the Tesco and Carrefour hypermarkets would be selling the book at RM40 off the cover price.

Because, instead of facing up to their competition, the four major booksellers in the country decided to throw a strop. There was huffing and there was puffing. There was pouting and there was the stomping of feet.

But most of all, there were the thousands of disappointed customers – most of them children.

Now when running a business, it is probably a good rule of thumb to not turn away potential customers. Pushing them in the direction of your competitors is also not common practice. Maybe it’s time to rethink your day job.

We Malaysians do not read. If we do, it’s usually some trashy magazine we’re clutching while crouching in a corner at the local Borders. We hardly ever buy books. If we do, it’s usually for school.

It’s because we as a society haven’t done enough to instil a reading culture. It’s because books are too expensive, and therefore a luxury that many cannot afford. It’s because libraries are far and few between, and even these are under-funded and under-stocked.

But, for some reason, through some perfect combination of clever marketing, global hype, and mediocre storytelling, this “scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy” seems to have awakened the slumbering bookworm in many Malaysians, an achievement to which the four major booksellers in the country have effectively turned their backs on.

People want to read. All they’ve done is make it that much harder. Maybe now they’ll stop their whining about how unprofitable the book business is.

To MPH Bookstores, Times the Bookshop, Popular Bookstores, and Harris Bookstores, I only have this to say: “Bad form!”

The reason the hypermarkets can offer such an “indiscriminate” price discount is really just basic marketing strategy. The American entrepreneur King Gillette famously invented the loss leader business model, in which razors were sold at a loss so that his company could profit by selling disposable razor blades.

In the case of Tesco and Carrefour, they could make a loss on the books in an effort to draw customers into their stores where they are likely to buy other goods. It is much the same with McDonald’s and their value meals, with movie theatres and popcorn, and with Sony and their PlayStation 3.

Now, what Tesco and Carrefour have done isn’t new; and it isn’t by any means noble. I do however applaud them for their effort, as cheaper books mean more people can afford to read.

No comments: