Open Journal Systems
The system of book pricing in Nigeria is so arbitrary and erratic that one can hardly find a given title sold for the same price in two bookshops. The present study endeavored to find out some of the reasons for these disparities. Twenty publishers and 20 booksellers were chosen, and questionnaires were sent to them. As a result of intensive follow–up, all 40 questionnaires were eventually returned. Subsequent to the return of the questionnaires, the investigator conducted personal interviews with the respondents.
A list of 150 book titles was used as the basis for comparison. It was discovered that not one of the books was priced the same in any two bookshops. While differences in the bookshop prices normally ranged from twice the publisher’s price to six times the publisher’s price, occasionally a book was priced below the publisher’s price. Several factors appear to be responsible for the wide range of bookshop prices.
- If the bookshop price is lower than the publisher’s price, the reason may be the book’s publication date. Typically, publishers raise the price of a book each year after publication, to account for their rising costs of doing business in an inflationary economy. The publishers’ prices of several multi–volume encyclopedias (imported) doubled from 1994 to 1995. Bookshop managers may not be aware of the new pricings, and may continue to sell books at the original publication price (or the bookshop’s scale for that price).
- Market demand is operative, and since there is a general scarcity of books in Nigeria, it is expected that bookshops will price their materials accordingly. In regions where scarcity is greatest, the prices will be higher. Libraries are obviously affected: some may be unable to buy a book because of high cost, while others–located more advantageously–may acquire the book at a reasonable cost.
- Multiple copy purchasing is a common library practice, for items expected to be in great demand. However, some bookshops have a policy of selling no more than one copy of a book to one buyer. The justification for this policy is to make the limited number of copies available to the widest group of buyers. A librarian who wants to buy several copies of a title will thus have to buy them in different bookshops, at varying prices.
The book pricing problem is only one aspect of the unfortunate condition of publishing and bookselling in the country. About 90 percent of the books sold in Nigeria are imported. There is no dependable vendor distribution system. There is no current in–print list, with prices, for books (or other materials). Librarians are forced to buy most books locally, to avoid further difficulties and charges that attach to postal deliveries. Criticisms aimed at librarians for failing to have adequate collections or for spending what seems to be more money than necessary in their acquisitions, should be considered in the light of the entire situation.
Betty I. Ifidon is Head, Research Collection and Systems Development Division, Edo State University, Ekpoma, Nigeria. An article by her appeared in the first issue of Third World Libraries. She has also published in Library Scientist.
© 1995 Betty I. Ifidon.
Ifidon, Betty I. “ Reserach Summary: Variable Book Pricing in Nigeria” World Libraries, Volume 6, Number 1 (Fall 1995).