Saturday, 26 February 2011


Books in New Zealand are very expensive.  A new paperback novel in a bookshop is about $40NZ (about £20 UK).  In the UK that same novel will be about £7 or £8 but the bookshops sell most new novels on a bogof basis (buy one get one half price or three for the price of two).   In the UK bookshops appear to be still flourishing despite the competition from Amazon (where the same paperback will probably cost £4.50) and electronic books for use on the Kindle and iPad and so on.  It is generally cheaper in NZ to buy a paperback from in the US and ship it here or from an on-line bookshop here.

I like books.  I am not sure how I would react to a Kindle but I'm pretty sure I will end up buying one.  Why?  Because these days when travel by air means less and less luggage in and out of the cabin two  medium paperbacks weigh more than a Kindle which can hold about 3500 books and takes up less room than a paperback.  

So the threat to bookstores in NZ is considerable.

In Tauranga I noticed that the chain franchise Poppies store was closing:

"Instore" On the facade of a book store - ugh
In Napier the Dymocks Book Store has closed and the Whitcoulls group which has been around since 1882 when it started up in Christchurch is in Administration.

This leaves a Paper Plus (which is a general stationers etc which sells books) and the privately owned Beatties and Forbes Book Shop. 

What happens now?


  1. Do they sell books at department stores and supermarkets in NZ? Some here do even if the selection is limited. Sweden introduced reduced VAT on books some years ago. From 25% to 6%; it made a difference. I might consider a Kindle some day but actually so far I haven't seen one in real life!

  2. My daughter and I trade books all the time. Can't do that with a Kindle. I LOVE going in to book stores to browse. But I am guilty of going home and ordering off Amazon.
    But you've got me thinking...

  3. In the UK a lot of bookshops now sell coffee as well, so you can read a book and have a coffee at the same time as a way of encouraging people into the shop.

    I've tried a kindle and yes it's nice but there's nothing like the feel of a book - it just doesn't feel right. There's also the issue of price - in the UK ebooks are comparative in price to paperbacks so there isn't the same financial reasons to go electronic.

    Although all my bookshelves are full and I may have to bite the bullet and actually get one myself soon.

  4. I was gifted the 'iriver' at xmas...a little bit more flexible than a kindle but essentially just the same.

    The only thing I miss when using it is the smell and feel of a real book. It's also a bit strange not to have the weight and physical depth of a book in your hands. You can't gauge the likely length, depth or complexity of an electronic book - because you can't see how long it is etc...

    The kids and I were debating what made a book 'a book'...was it more than just incorporeal word pictures and ideas which we made sense of through brain and eye and ear. If it was, then was that only because we had our expectations shaped by the increasingly old-fashioned technology that went into collating and presenting those words (i.e. book binding). The kids had a pretty powerful emotional antipathy to the iriver. Books are paper. Are physical. They are material.

    I'm not sure I agree now. What is it I like about my favourite books? Surely it's the words that the books contain - words that are ordered in a way that affects me. It's not the cover, nor the number of pages and etc...

    Funny how I feel a vague sense of guilt or betrayal when using the iriver though...

    You're right Graham - in terms of portability the electronic reader wins hands down...

  5. marc has a kindle and absolutely loves it. he would highly reecommend it especially travelling

  6. I also love seeing the colors of the books as they stand regally on a shelf or on the floor. But my favorite, independent book store closed two or more years ago. So, now I often buy books from Amazon (in the USA, they sell books cheaper than even some of the used books stores.) The only bookstore (of new books) we have in Muncie is Books-a-Million. Sometimes they sell new books for $1, and they often have books given to them by our local library for costs less than $5.
    But I miss going into a book store where "everybody knows my name."
    I think you can see where I stand on books or e-book readers. But like I thought I'd never have a cell phone...

  7. Oh dear.
    I love books and the bookshops that sell them.
    I hope it's not a dying art. :-)

  8. I had a phone call the day of the Whitcoulls announcement from the office of my local MP. She asked did I have any issues I'd like discussed at their Party meeting that night. I said do something about the disappearing bookstores. I think she struggled to take me seriously.

    The world is changing and I'm slow to go with the flow. For me nothing will replace the smell and feel of a book. More senses are at work then just sight.

    Having said that I can't afford to buy books from bookstores and from my experience buying from Amazon costs nearly as much as buying from bookstores by the time the postage is added on. So I'm a bit hypocritical really, I want to retain the bookstores for the pleasure of those who can afford them but don't support them myself. But, the library, that is a different matter!

  9. Monica: There are tiny selections of fiction in the most upmarket of our supermarkets but that's it. In Napier we have a wonderful second-hand bookshop and another good one in the town centre. We also have a good library.

    Lisa: Trading books and lending them is common and I hadn't thought of that angle. I don't think books will disappear in our lifetime though.

    Tony: Coffee in bookshops is a wonderful facility. I use them a lot. If it helps keep the bookshops I'll use them even more!

    Yvonne: You've made me think. I collect books as did my Mother and as does my brother (on an unbelievable scale). I asked myself why I collect them. I shall answer that in a post.

    S G: Yes. I love the physicality of books too. That's an important part of the issue isn't it?

    Jaz: I can't imagine you not being a bookshop person.

    Pauline: Good for you. I bet your local MP's lady was totally flumoxed by that one. Of course the reality is that that there is nothing they can do. It's a commercial issue and we are the people who decide what we will or will not or can or can not buy. And, yes, there are lot of senses at play here.

  10. I agree that books in NZ are way too expensive. It was one of the things that influenced me to go with a Kindle. I mainly read novels. But occasionally I dip into non-fiction. The best book I have read for years is by a doctor called Atul Gawande. The title is Better. I did a post about it.