Costco presented its opposition Wednesday to the proposed fixed price system for books in Quebec, citing fears it would adversely affect Quebec's book sales as a whole. The remarks came from Costco v-p Andrée Brien as the Parliamentary Committee studying the issue enters its final week of hearings. Led by Maka Kotto, Quebec's Minister of Culture, the initiative would limit price slashing and deep discount practices in the initial months of a book's release. With few exceptions, Quebec's entire book industry has campaigned for this One Price for Books.
But Costco noted that if the aim of the legislation is to modify consumer behavior then a fixed price might be missing the mark. Brien revealed an internal Costco survey that says that nearly 75% of book buying at its stores are impulse selections. In this context, it doesn't appear logical that fixing a price for books would deter a consumer from buying a book at a big box store and then encourage them to get in their car, drive to the nearest independent bookseller and buy the book there at the same price. That may be so, say proponents of a fixed price, however, it could deter a consumer who buys the book at a small bookseller and returns the book a few minutes later because they found it cheaper at the drugstore across the street.
Brien fears that raising prices for French-language books in the province "could accelerate the movement of consumers toward digital books and online purchases, and even push them toward buying the original English version of certain books at lower prices." A study released this week by the Consumer Electronics Association, reveals that Americans spend 114 minutes every day on their smartphones and only 23 minutes of that is talk. There is a sense that those phone minutes are eating away at time traditionally reserved for reading and that a fixed price for books, though it may be a boost for independent booksellers, isn't really addressing the profound changes wreaking havoc on the marketplace ever since the rise of e-books.