Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Why I Don't Use Bookstores Much Anymore

I read a lot and buy a couple of books a month. But I seldom use bookstores anymore. I was reminded graphically of the reason why last night.

We needed a last minute gift for a child. As we frequently do, we decided on a book -- in this case, we wanted to buy a hardbound copy of Eric Carle's classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Both of our kids had loved it when they were small so this has become a staple of our gift-giving.

We called around. The local Barnes & Noble had a copy. Great! So I drove over and walked up to the counter. "I'm here to pick up a hardbound copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and there it was.

Great! I pulled out my credit card and swiped it.


I looked at the number and at the 32-page book which had originally been published in 1981. "Is this correct?" The counter person looked at my with pity. 'Yes, that's correct." I signed, mumbled something, and left with the book.

I've grown accustomed to online discounts through Amazon and others and typically I've been buying used books through Amazon, which are very good deals.

I thought about the total price of this particular children's book -- $20.99 list plus tax. Wow. This is what you can do when you have a powerful back list with a  classic - charge what the market will bear.

I thought about what it would be like bringing up kids these days with such prices and, comparatively speaking, a young  family starting out can't afford a lot of books at this price. So the publisher must be catering to last minute purchasers, grandparents, and wealthy people. Granted, I can afford it, but it's sad to see such pricing with such terrific titles.

Now, I know all the arguments -- transportation costs, manufacturing, energy, marketing, etc. etc. etc. But $22 for a hardbound children's book that's been around since 1981? Wow. And the funny thing is, when you listen to publishers on C-SPAN, you hear hand wringing about reading and young people not reading as much as they should.

Oh well. I'll know better next time than to go to a bookstore that charges full price!

You Can't Do Everything Online

Plaza de Cuba at Night