Humble pie or no pie at all

Time was when a book came out in hard cover, a paperback edition followed a year later, and then maybe another year or two would pass before you’d find your baby in the remainder bin. Bookstores would slash the original $26.95 price down to $6.95 or lower.

Next came the rise of Alibris and Abebooks. At first the online sites sold only used books but for the last couple of years they’ve also been selling new books at a discount of 40 per cent or more.

Today, the time between publication and a price drop has become about three months. Published in March, a copy of BlackBerry (full retail $32.95) is now available on Kijiji Kitchener for $10. Someone else recently offered a “mint” copy on eBay with bids beginning at $2.99. When there was no interest, he offered it at 99 cents. I didn’t track along to see if it sold and at what price.

For independent booksellers, such cutthroat prices mean a rough new world. Browsers spend time in the store reading books then go home and buy online. The whole pricing process has another impact: it keeps an author humble, too.

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