Browsing through a local chain bookstore, I found one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction: The Information by James Gleick.
Although I already own hardcover and Kindle editions in English, I contemplated purchasing the Spanish-language edition. The cover’s simple yet clever design and elegant typography drew me. I’m a sucker for a good cover, especially on a book I’ve re-read portions of multiple times.
I also heaped its praise on to a friend browsing along with me. He sounded interested. Then we checked the price: s./140.
That’s $48. Oof.
I know many books — especially by U.S. authors that have been translated and nicely produced like this copy — are pricey here, but for a no-so-obscure book (maybe I’m wrong on that one) it seemed weird. This wasn’t some limited-run, small academic publishing house tome.
The chain’s page for the book listed it at s./130 ($45).
I then went to the publisher’s site, but couldn’t find it. Seeing other books there priced in euros, I remembered the store copy also included the price in euros (I think it was €29.90, or about $38) on the back cover. The price in soles was on a sticker.
Digging a little further into the publisher’s site, I saw their address listed as Barcelona.
A-ha! The book must have been imported from Spain. That would help explain the price.
For a country with such a notable pirated book problem, why don’t bookstores don’t try to price their books more competitively?
A 2005 report commissioned by the Cámara Peruana del Libro (CPL), a national consortium of publishing houses, distributors and booksellers, came to even more alarming conclusions: pirates were employing more people than formal publishers and booksellers, and their combined economic impact was estimated to be 52 million US dollars – or roughly equivalent to one hundred per cent of the legal industry’s total earnings. [source: Granta]
Also, with so much book piracy, how the heck are there even so many legit bookstores in the first place? They must be profitable or supported another way. Maybe it’s just that those who can afford to buy legit books do — and do so enough to keep so many bookstores in business.
If only there were a freelance journalist based in Lima who could investigate (cough, Mollie, cough)…