In a previous post I spoke about the relatively good English book selection here in Korea, and how much more affordable books are here when compared to SA. I thought I’d elaborate a little on this.
Recently I ordered several books online from What the Book?, a store that specialises in supplying English-language books to people in Korea. But here’s the kicker – few of these books are printed in Korea. They are mostly imported from the US, half a planet away. So you’d think that the price would be a bit higher, considering the relatively small English-language market here and the distances involved. Actually, this isn’t the case. The price you pay for these books is DIRECTLY linked to the US dollar price printed on the book.
Here’s an example for you: I ordered the book “Spin State” by Chris Moriarty. I received the book within two weeks of ordering from the website, and I paid 6,990 won for it. This price was linked directly to the cover price: US$6.99. They even make the link on the price listed on the website. In Korea, 1,000 won is roughly equal to US$1.00.
So what does this mean? Well, using today’s exchange rate (US$1 = R7.964), this book cost me about R56.00. Keep in mind that this is the only store in Korea that specialises in English-language books, and all their stock has to be imported from the US.
Now, let’s look at the SA prices for exactly the same US edition of this book. Exploitive Crooks, ummm, I mean Exclusive Books, charges R77.00 for the book, while Kalahari asks R88.00. Loot.co.za has a much better price: R68.00. So the same book would cost between R12.00 and R30.00 more in SA than I paid in Korea. And this in a country with several book websites and several large bookstore chains. You’d think competition would lower prices, or at least ensure that the book price reflected the US dollar price.
And this is just one example of where I have been able to buy an English-language book in a non-English-speaking country for far cheaper than I could in South Africa. This just reinforces my belief that South African booklovers are getting ripped off. I’m sure there are reasons (or at least claimed reasons) for the higher prices, but my experience here in Korea makes me a little suspicious. Korea is notorious for making it difficult to import anything, as it has protectionist tendencies. And yet books sell for essentially the same as they would in a store in the US.
I think the issue of high prices for books in SA needs to be further investigated.