Thursday, June 07, 2007

Exchange rate

So that was interesting. The other day one of the more prominent comic book websites, Newsarama (or, more specifically the blogging section of their site) linked to my post about how Marvel Comics appears to be gouging Canadian comic book fans with the exchange rate. Which, in turn, produced a lovely surge in traffic and probably had more than one person wondering, “Where the hell is Nunavut and why can’t this guy get to a comic book store more often?”

I can’t get to a Wal-Mart, guys. A comic book store is a dream at this point.

But it was interesting to read some of the debate on the thread that linked to my post. First, apparently Ottawa sucks for comic book stores. Now, I did find a couple of nice ones. But upon reviewing receipts, they did charge me full Canadian price for the comics. Something I thought little of at the time, as I was in my glee at getting to my first comic book stores in about four months.

But the curious thing is the number of people who responded that in Toronto, most of the stores simply charge customers US prices and completely ignore the Canadian price. If they don’t do that, then the stores work out what the actual exchange rate is and charge them that.

Now, some of it is simply competition. There are a lot of stores in Toronto, and if one store starts charging the US cover price, then most are going to follow suit so they don’t lose business. But interestingly and employee (owner?) of the Beguiling (a very good Toronto comic book store specializing in smaller, indy titles) showed up and while lamenting selling at US cover a bit, believed that anyone selling at full Canadian cover was ripping off their customers.

And then, even more bizarrely, one of the guys who runs Oni Publishing (a decent sized “independent” publisher. Not Marvel or DC level, but they do respectable sales and have published some good series, such as Blue Monday, Whiteout, Queen and Country and others) said they no longer charge a unique Canadian price. Furthermore, he questioned exactly who is making the extra money off the high exchange rate.

I know many of the regular readers of the blog probably aren’t that interested in this, but to me it’s fascinating stuff. I’m old enough to recall buying comics when there was only one price. “Still, only 35 cents!” as the tag on the old Marvel Comics used to read. And I can recall the shock of picking up a comic and discovering that while the US price remained the same, I was now paying more because I lived in Canada, something I thought was very unfair at the time.

Then again, I guess it sort of balances out. Back in 2003 when I was selling some of my comics to buy Cathy’s engagement ring, I recall briefly cursing because I was taking a bath by selling the comics when the exchange rate was pegged around 72 cents. A year or so earlier it has been in the mid-60s and I felt I was losing money by selling at that high exchange rate.

Goes to show what I know. If the dollar remains where it is, my next sale is going to be a bloodbath compared to that.

I’m not naïve enough to think that one blog post is going to change things. But it was nice to see people chat about it and have an opinion. And that other blogs picked up on what I was saying and agreeing. Hopefully something good spins out of people discussing, and being generally pissed off, over the exchange rate.

I know a higher Canadian dollar means for many people cheaper vacations in the US or being able to buy clothing or electronics at lower prices. But for me, the day I can look at a book, magazine and comic and only see one price on the cover, it will be a very happy day for me.

1 comment:

the2scoops said...

I think you're raising an excellent point on the exchange rate and publishing, and I think all the interest is due to the fact that, well, nobody's really questioned it. As you say, it's not just comics: books and magazines have some huge descrepancies. The same issue you had with that Daredevil Omnibus is the same price difference you'll see on new hardcover books.

Just a thought: next door to my workplace in Toronto, the annual Bookexpo Canada is going on, where the publishers are showcasing their publishing lines. If I could get my hands on a pass, I'd like to do a quick survey of the retailers and publishers in attendance and get their opinion on the issue.