If you live in Australia, you are used to paying a lot for your books.
I am Australian, and I had no idea I had been paying so much until I moved to the UK and saw how cheap books were here, and that was in the days when it cost you three Aussie dollars for one English pound.
Since then it has got even better. After much reluctance I fell under the Amazon spell resulting in ever more amazing deals, and the exchange rate now means it only costs around $1.60 for one pound sterling.
For a book-lover, it is heaven. Quite often I can buy a book for less than most people’s daily coffee budget. Now the constraints on my book buying are not about money – but more about the lack of space in a one-bedroom London flat.
But in Australia, where the average price for a book is something like $20, I would be thinking twice before every purchase. Buying a book would become quite the luxury.
But bookshops are in trouble…
Despite these high prices – and I understand some of that is due to artificial means to protect someone or other along the way – bookshops are struggling. Staff at two of the largest chains, Borders and Angus and Robertson, are waiting to find out which of their hundreds of stores are to close, as the companies behind them try to cut costs to survive. And people are asking questions as to the viability of bookshops at all.
This is no doubt painful for those who love to read. There is no Amazon in Australia, and like most of us of a certain age, many continue to hold great love for bookshops. So where does that leave the Australian reader? Torn, no doubt. Does this make you determined to support the remaining bookshops to keep them alive? Or are you going to give in to the lure of cheap online bookshops – a category Packabook also falls into, even though we like to consider ourselves a boutique service.
What should you do?
Only you can make that decision. Do you support bookshops by paying up to three times the cost of a book you can buy online? Or do you decide that change is inevitable, and you may as well enjoy a lot more books in the meantime, supporting writers and publishers from a different direction…
If you are considering going down the online route – Amazon UK is making it easy for you. Until May 2011, it is offering free postage to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India if you spend 25 pounds on books. Who knows what will happen after that. If we are lucky it is an experiment which will become a permanent policy, if not, it’s a rare chance for you to pick up some books at a great price.
It got me thinking about what I would buy with my 25 pounds if I was going to take the plunge…
Twenty five pounds is around 40 Australian dollars – for that you can buy 2 to 2.5 books in Australia. (It appears you can get some books for around $17.95, but that was the cheapest I could find.) From Amazon I can buy six books for the same money.
(Apologies to those of you in the US. Due to the nature of this post, the links and prices all refer to Amazon UK, but I have created a US link for each of the books if you would like to check out the titles at Amazon US).
Here’s my list
This is what I would buy with £25 from Amazon. Please note – with Amazon, prices change all the time, so you may not see exactly the same price if you click through – but this was what was on offer at the time of writing.
The Long Song by Andrea Levy – set in Jamaica – £4.00
In this latest novel from the author of Small Island, July is the child of a slave and a slave-master, living on a sugar plantation in the early 19th century. Born into slavery, she lives through the struggle to abolition and the freedom that follows.
“The book cuts deep but the author does an amazing job of keeping the reader gripped from the very first page. Absolute work of art !!! ” – Amazon Reviews. Average of four stars.
Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna – set in India – £4.00
I haven’t heard a great deal about this one, but it sounds like a perfect Packabook book, and I love the cover!
As a child, Devi befriends a young boy whose mother has died in tragic circumstances. Devi and Devanna become inseparable, until Devi meets the man she vows to marry.
“This book immediately grabs your attention with it’s descriptions of landscape and people, with prose of such elegant literary quality that enhances the story and makes the book such a pleasure to read. A veritable feast for the senses. ” – Amazon Reviews. Average of four and a half stars.
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer – The Czech Republic – £4.80
One of my favourite reads last year. Mawer’s book is set in the former Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s – when a Jewish family builds a stunning modern house. (Based on Villa Tugendhat in Brno which is now an icon of modern architecture). We follow the drama of Victor and Leisel’s lives and marriage, as war approaches the country. This amazing house is always central to the novel, and it certainly gave me a new appreciation of architecture along with a great story.
“I suppose the highest praise I could give this novel is that I would like to start reading it again from the beginning.” – Amazon Reviews. Average of 4.4 stars.
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey – Trinidad – £4.19
It’s the mid-1950’s and George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England. George relishes their new life, but Sabine does not. She doesn’t like the heat, feels isolated and is nervous of upcoming political change on the island. But then she falls under the spell of a charismatic political leader…
“This is one of the best books I have read in years. It has everything you want from a novel – incredible use of language, fascinating context (Trinidad’s emerging independence) and wonderful characters who stay with you long after the book is finished.” – Amazon Reviews. Average of four stars.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Mainly Ethiopia, but other countries along the way – £4.69
The story of identical twins born to an Indian nun and a British doctor in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The book spans spans decades and continents, but reviewers say it gives a very real portrayal of Ethiopia in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Not for the squeamish as there are some very realistic descriptions of surgery!
“An intelligent and gripping story which will remain with you long after the final page has been turned.” – Amazon reviews. Average of 4 and a half stars.
One Day by David Nicholls – England – £3.99
This is the story of Dex and Emma who meet as students in 1988. For the next twenty odd years we get to see what they are up to on July 15th each year – discovering their love and hate for each other, their insecurities, and their inability to tell each other what they really think.
“Nicholls has created two characters that are truly archetypes for the modern generation: the aimless, boy-man who believes he can get by on charm alone, and the woman who refuses to settle for anything, be it jobs, men or ideals…An emotional journey, but not without its gorgeous descriptions of London and truly humorous moments.” – Amazon reviews. Average of 3.7 stars.
What would you choose?
So, if I have done my calculations correctly (and there is definitely no guarantee of that!) the grand total is £25.67 or A$41.52. And until May at least, there’s no cost for sending it to you. If you can wait a few weeks for your books, then this is a great deal.
Here’s all the details on how to get the free postage.
What about you? What would you put in your £25 basket? Or are you eschewing Amazon and sticking to supporting your local bookshop despite the cost? Let us know in the comments….