Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Confession: I hate the Exclusive Books Summer Sale

Twice a year or whatever Exclusive Books has the worst sale known to book-kind. It's not that I particularly dislike Exclusives. I mean, they aren't my favourite but I have purchased (too many) books from them and ordered online. I think the whole Stickers thing was a stroke of genius. That being said, kalahari is 8 times our of ten cheaper and has a better selection of the books I actually want to read.

You guys, even though peeps on Twitter be going on about how 'great' the Summer Sale is/was, how they really got 'awesome' deals: who has that ever really happened to? All the stock on sale is out-of-date or is overflow and needs to be shipped on out to make way for new copies of Fifty Shades. No attempt is made at a balanced mix of bestsellers and lesser known titles - especially for fiction or YA. It's not like I could go and get a copy of Hunger Games at R50. Or anything by John Green. If I'd ever seen Dessen in a EB, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be on sale either. So what's the point? I have a to-read list longer than my arm and I know I am never in one billion years ever going to find those books at any sidewalk EB sale. The warehouse clearance sale looked like it was going to be a lot better and, granted, it was. But really only if you want to get kids' books. Books are priced and sold by weight not quantity so it really makes sense to stick up for a year of kids' bday pressies all at once. For anyone else though? I can't see how you could actually look through piles of things you do not want to find something you may or may not sort of want because, hey, it's on sale.

Perhaps my feelings about EB's lame attempts at a sale are a result of #firstworldproblems: how are you supposed to find anything with no key words, cmb+F or search bar? In the real world, how can you expect your customers to be able to differentiate from hundreds of products that they can't establish their preference for until they actually buy them? You can judge a book by it's cover but it's probably not going to be what you think. How do you then signal to consumers that somewhere in that stack of stuff, you as the retailer, just want to rid of is a book that will change their lives? And how is EB going to convince me that it's even possible that that book is in there at all when all I see in front of me is - let me be real - kind of a fail?


  1. I always get awesome deals at EB sales. I never go looking for anything specific; I'm just on the lookout for anything I want to read. I'm not interested in the latest set of bestsellers because they tend to be very commercial and consequently very disappointing. They're those books I don't really want but that I might buy if, hey, they're on sale.

    There are brand new books I'd love to buy cheaply, but let's be fair - it wouldn't make financial sense to put those on sale.

    I don't mind that they sell older books. I don't feel that they're "out of date". A good book is a good book no matter when you read it, and so often I've found books that I've wanted for years, interesting titles I hadn't heard of, and the best part is that I get loads of them in HARDCOVER, often with gorgeous covers. For way less than the price of a paperback.

    If your tbr list is so long, surely there must be something to interest you? I see plenty of YA titles on the tables.

  2. Well, it might make financial sense to sell new books at affordable prices if those working in the publishing industry's supply chain were supported by state and civil society to make books less than prohibitively expensive for most ordinary South Africans. I think there are alternative models for book production and distribution that we haven't begun to explore in Africa and I really hope that new books one day can be sold cheaply and to the masses. It certainly is possible in China, in India so why not in SADC?

    My problem is not that they sell older books - I'm in love with older books - my problem is that there is no signalling device to help me discern books that I might want to read from those that I might not. I point out that my problem might be more a symptom of intellectual laziness and being acclimatised to being able to find what I want quickly and easily in the post but I still think it's a valid concern.

    Ironically, after writing that post, I was at Cape Town International Airport and the EB sale there was amazing. I found a number of titles to buy in both the adult and YA sections so it's also possible that my problem is one of selection bias: the branches I'm going to are not the ones that stock the books I'm looking for. That's a valid concern too but probably not something that neither I nor EB can really do anything about given the need to service a wide variety os tastes and not just me.

    As an unrelated aside, I also dislike hardcover books so maybe I'm just weird?