Tyler, the blogger behind Award Tour, mentioned in a comment on yesterday’s post that books are about 20% cheaper in the US compared to Canada. To compare book prices, I checked up on the prices of an unscientific sample of best sellers and popular finance books on Amazon’s Canadian and US websites. Here are the results:

  1. Age of Turbulence (Alan Greenspan): 21% cheaper
  2. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini): 16% cheaper
  3. The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein): 13% cheaper
  4. Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert): 3% cheaper
  5. Random Walk Down Wall Street (Burton Malkiel): 23% cheaper
  6. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (John Bogle): 23% cheaper
  7. Four Pillars of Investing (William Bernstein): 27% cheaper
  8. Unconventional Success (David Swensen): 23% cheaper
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling): 14% cheaper

On average, books are about 20% cheaper south of the border but there is a catch – while free shipping on orders over $39 from Amazon.ca, books shipped to Canada from Amazon.com attracts a charge of $3.99 per shipment plus $2.49 per item. If you add the per item cost of shipping to the price of the book in the U.S., the average savings decreases to 4%.

One area in which significant savings can be had by shopping on U.S. websites is textbooks. Even with the punishing international shipping charges, savings of 75% off the list price are not uncommon when buying from third-party sellers. For current bestsellers, your local Costco has a limited selection but almost always has very good prices.

This article has 8 comments

  1. On my latest trip to Chapters I found this really funny and sad at the same time. Books that are printed in Toronto and include a cheaper US price.

    I guess for me the question isn’t – why I should be importing at a cheaper price from the USA, but why I should be paying a higher price at all?

  2. I don’t usually need to buy books new, but when I do I always use amazon.ca, I have found their return policy to be very good if it is needed.
    Other than that I buy all my books on http://www.bookcloseouts.com
    the books are incredibly cheap, my last order of books cost me 39.84 and the regular retail was 254.00

  3. Canadian Capitalist

    Quentin: There is no question that we pay more for books, electronics and many other items. Unfortunately, other than complain bitterly, there is very little we can really do about it. Shopping in the US is an option but lacks the convenience factor.

  4. I think we always over-look one factor- the relatively smaller population density of this country. Even if the dollar is at par, it simply costs more to ship to Canada than in the U.S. I remember being in a book store and the clerk was saying that any book could be shipped to any retailer located in eastern U.S. overnight- there were warehouses located through the U.S. In Canada, the population isn’t dense enough to have inventory storage warehouses everywhere. I am not even factoring in the customs and border issues and how those costs are passed down to the customer. It is just a reality of living in this country that everything costs more because it costs more to get it from point A to B regardless of the exchange.

  5. CC – As long as we continue to complain(more like bring it to the attention of more people) and not do the traditional Canadian complacency thing then perhaps we might get somewhere.

    Brian – Another source of book deals for me has been ebay.ca. You never know what type of bargain you are going to get. I purchased Talbot Stevens book “Financial Freedom without Sacrifice” for $6. I asked the seller to pick it up.

    The seller is living in a condo right by the Toronto Ferry docks. I mentioned going to Centre Island with my family, and the seller let me park in the Condo guest parking for the day. I picked up the book from the concierge in the morning, enjoyed the day with my family at Centre Island, and saved $20 in parking.

  6. It’s even more shocking in the UK… prices all from Amazon for
    William Bernstein, The Intelligent Asset Allocator
    Canada $30.21
    US $19.77
    UK c. C$36.62 (£18.04 x 2.03 exchange)

  7. Pingback: Bargain Shopping

  8. I have been using price comparison sites like http://www.thecollegetextbooks.net for my buying my textbooks. It is better than going for standalone stores. As you can save on lot of money using them.