Save Money by Shopping Online – Books

by Centsable One on January 17, 2012 · 0 comments

You would have to have been living under a rock to miss the hullaballoo made by Australian retailers over the Christmas shopping period about online shopping stealing their market.  Australian consumers it appears discovered the world of online bargains in 2011.  And not just from Australian online shopping sites but also the US online shopping behemoths like Amazon, eBay and Buy.com.

Australian retailers are not happy with online shopping eating into the bricks and mortar market.  They are demanding that GST be charged on online purchases to level the playing field.  Personally, I don’t think that charging GST on online purchases with make much of a difference.

At the end of the day, the variance in price between an online retailer, whether overseas based or not, and the bricks and mortar retailers we find at the local shopping mall, often exceeds the 10% GST.

Bricks and mortar booksellers were particularly hard hit by the online shopping trend during 2011.  REDGroup Retail who own Borders and Angus and Robertson in Australia went into voluntary administration during 2011 (on the same day Borders in the US went into bankruptcy) and saw the closure of many stores, their total number of Borders and Angus & Robertson stores falling from 260 to 70.

These stats would imply that the online shopping revolution has had a big impact on books and book prices.  Of course, eBook popularity has also skyrocketed in recent years compromising the physical book market.

So let’s look at the numbers.  Do you really save money by buying your books online?

In the spirit of the personal finance topic of this blog, lets price a couple of personal finance books: Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad and Tim Ferris’s’ 4 Hour Work Week (OK maybe more lifestyle design but I learned a lot about money while reading it too).

Amazon.com

Amazon is undoubtedly the biggest player in the online sales arena in the US and increasingly internationally. As a US based site any books purchased are likely to be in US English. If this worries you, check your purchase carefully (you will find international items for sale).

Postage has also caused issue in the past with shipping costs exceeding the cost of the goods purchased.  These problems have been addressed with a simple shipping option to “consolidate” goods for shipping.

When ordering from Amazon partner sellers you may also find that you are better off paying a higher price for the item being ordered to access cheaper shipping.  Shipping varies by seller.  For our two books, however, we will look only at books shipped directly from Amazon:

Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki at the time of writing was available for $7.99 (Amazon prices are listed in USD).  Shipping to Australia, however, is not free!  There are three options for shipping:

Standard International – $9.98

Expedited International – $15.98

Priority International – $29.98

4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris sells on Amazon for $14.34 – this is for the revised and updated edition with over 100 pages of extra content. (Even if you own the original edition I recommend purchasing the update!)

The shipping rates for a single book, are the same as above for Rich Dad Poor Dad.  But, if you purchase both volumes the rates change, assuming you chose the consolidate items option on shipping:

Standard International – $14.97

Expedited International – $21.97

Priority International – $37.97

No analysis of Amazon would be complete however without looking at the eBook option they present.  Amazon’s Kindle platform lets readers enjoy eBooks on their computers, Smartphone’s, tablets and the dedicated Kindle device.

The Amazon Kindle eBook store gives almost instantaneous (2 click downloads) of Rich Dad Poor Dad for $5.65 USD and The 4-Hour Workweek. for $9.99 USD.

Fishpond.com.au 

Fishpond is a local player (based in NZ) in the online bookseller market.  Pricing is in Australian dollars, their warehouses are near the airport to reduce shipping times and they stock a selection of unique local products as well as accessing products from overseas (US and UK).  They boldly claim on their website to better Amazon’s prices – Guaranteed.  But the big draw for this player?  Free shipping in NZ and Australia (standard shipping).

If you are offended by US English (the spelling being the biggest difference) take note on where your book is coming from!

So let’s see if the claim is correct for our sample of two books:

Rich Dad Poor Dad at the time of writing had a list price of $29.99 but was on sale for $7.45 (AUD).

And 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris is available for $16.67.  It too had an original list price of $29.99 (likely the publishers RRP).

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids about Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! The 4-hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich

Angus & Robertson Online

Out of interest let’s look at one of Australia’s bricks and mortar book sellers, online options.  Angus and Robertson as discussed above went into voluntary administration last year, and shut down a number of their bricks and mortar stores.

Can they morph into an online book seller?  Let’s see.

A quick search shows the online price for Rich Dad Poor Dad at Angus and Robertson is $24.95 (AUD).  Ouch!  Ok that could be an outlier so let’s check the other title we’ve been testing – 4 Hour Work Week.

Better, but not much – 4 Hour Work Week retails online at Angus and Robertson for $23.95 (AUD).

Standard shipping is free and Angus and Robertson do make a point on their website of guaranteeing delivery.  So I guess you are getting something for the extra dollars.

So who was cheapest?

Strictly speaking, Amazon’s kindle downloads are the cheapest, and fastest, for both titles.  That relies on you being comfortable with the whole eBook thing though.  If your aim is to have a physical copy of these two titles in hand, then fishpond.com.au is clearly the winner, and Angus & Robertson the big loser.  Its not hard to see why the retailer is in liquidation with competion like Amazon and Fishpond in the market.  Below are the table summaries for each title, with the cheapest shipping options chosen in each case.

The important thing to note though is that even using Amazon’s physical book price as a benchmark, the price variance between the online retailers and Angus & Robertson exceeds the 10% GST retailers have been complaining about.   So the real question becomes, are you willing to pay the inflated price for instant gratification – that is being able to walk out of a story with a copy of your book, rather than wait for multi day shipping.  That choice is, of course, personal.

 

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Bookseller

Format

Price

Shipping*

Total **

Amazon

Paperback

7.99

9.98

17.97

Amazon Kindle

eBook

5.65

download

5.65

Fishpond***

Paperback

7.45

Free

7.45

Angus & Robertson

Paperback

24.95

Free

24.95

 

4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris

Bookseller

Format

Price

Shipping*

Total **

Amazon

Hardback

14.34

9.98

24.32

Amazon Kindle

eBook

9.99

download

9.99

Fishpond***

Paperback

16.63

Free

16.63

Angus & Robertson

Paperback

23.95

Free

23.95

*     The cheapest shipping option to Australia is listed

**    Given that the USD and AUD have hovered around parity not adjustment has been made for currency variations.  This of course may have a significant impact in the future as do foreign currency charges on your credit card.  Amazon adn Amazon Kindle prices are quoted in USD, and Fishpond and Angus & Robertson prices are quoted in AUD.

***  Prices and Amazon and Fishpond fluctuated during the research period.  You should check all pricing for yourself at the time you are ready to place an order.

The links to Amazon.com and Fishpond.com.au in this article are affiliate links.  If you buy a $7.99 book through these links Centsable Chicks will earn about 40 cents.  We promise to spend it centsably!

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