“Never Pay Retail” – a cautionary tale

I’ve been enjoying the third book of Stieg Larssen’s Millenium trilogy. My friend Philippa at Tecnon recommended the first one to me because we both enjoy Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, and I was in such a hurry to buy the second book in the trilogy that I ended up buying it in hardback rather than waiting for the paperback to come out in the UK in July 2009. It’s a perfect book to read on trains or flights, but it’s crazy to go on a shorthaul trip with a book that weighs as much as the rest of your luggage put together.


The third book went on sale on 1 October 2009. It was in every bookshop window in its shiny dark green cover, but only in hardback until the paperback comes out in the UK next year. The list price was a staggering £18.99, although Amazon was offering it for £8 plus postage, and at 600 pages the hardback was prohibitively heavy for carry-on luggage.


I resisted, because I hate to reward this kind of manipulative marketing, but then on the way to Amsterdam for the ICIS Training Seminar in October, I weakened and went in to the WH Smiths bookshop in Heathrow’s Terminal 4 to look for it.


As if the whole hardback/paperback scam wasn’t annoying enough, the book was sold out and not even coming in to the WH Smith warehouse system, the assistant told me.


I took the Amsterdam flight with just a newspaper for company, but on the way back, on a table outside the Schipol florist next to racks of bulbs, the book was on sale and in paperback. It was still a weighty tome, and not exactly a bargain in euros, but it was one small short-lived consumerist triumph …


Because last week, while I was in a discount bookshop picking up the new Terry Pratchett to give as a present, I saw that all three Millenium books were packaged together with a ribbon and a large bar of Galaxy chocolate for £21 the lot.


Along with all the other early adopters, I’d been taken to the cleaners, and the ribbon and the chocolate were just the final insult.

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One Response to “Never Pay Retail” – a cautionary tale

  1. Robbo 16 November, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    Barbara, you need one of those e-readers. Even Palms, four years go, had fantastic scrolling books, so all you had to do was move your eyes from side to side not up and down the (tiny) screen.

    I took three books with me to the States recently and while they’re nice to hold, its a bit like going on a plane with a wind-up gramophone and a stack of 78s instead of an mp3 player.

    Now when I persuade my wife to let me buy an iPhone… I’ll be able to listen to music and read on a decent sized screen.

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