Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book Orders and Shipments

Are you the type of person who visits their bookstore every single day, hoping to find something new on the shelves? Similarly, are you tired of seeing the same old books on the shelves and tempted to order books via I used to be that person but I'm not. I discovered a secret that comes in handy and addresses my bibliophile needs. And the two topics might seem separate but in truth, they're related.

To answer the first question, I stopped dropping by bookstores every single day. Why? Because the books on shelf won't change. In fact, the variety will decrease as people pick up books, misplace them, or simply outright buy them. The question you should be asking is when should you visit your favorite bookstore. And the answer is the day after they ship their new stocks. It makes sense, right? But the answer to that question isn't obvious as most bookstores don't advertise. A Different Bookstore, for example, states in their book ordering information that their shipments arrives twice a month, on the 15th and the 30th (the same day as payday!). For the other bookstores, you're left in the dark. Well, here's some facts I discovered after stalking the bookstores (of course I can't guarantee this is 100% true but this is what I've observed):

Bookstores that ship twice every month:
  • Fully Booked
  • A Different Bookstore
Bookstores that ship once a month:
  • Booktopia (transitioning from twice-a-month schedule, or so I heard from Banzai Cat)
  • Powerbooks
  • National Bookstore
Now what does that mean? In the case of bookstores that ship twice every month, you just have to visit your favorite bookstore twice every month--don't bother visiting every single day, the book selections won't change. And in the case of bookstores that get their stocks every month, it just pays to visit them once. Sounds so simple right? And unbibliophile-like? Well, the way I see it, the less trips you make to your favorite bookstore, the more trips you can make to other bookstores, or the more time you can spend to actually reading your books. So think of this as a time management device. (Or if you want, just visit a section of the bookstore every day rather than tour the entire place in one go.)

I'd also want to clarify that the day a bookstore's stocks arrive to their warehouse isn't the day that the books are stocked on shelf. If A Different Bookstore gets its new stocks on the 15th, you can expect it on their shelves on the 16th or 17th for example. From what I've observed at Fully Booked, back when the flagship store was in Rockwell (it's now the one in Serendra), new books would arrive on the weekend (a Saturday afternoon visit is good). Nonetheless, knowing when books ship is useful to know (so ask the bookstores when they expect their next shipment to arrive... the smaller bookstores are open about it while the bigger bookstore chains usually cryptically answer whether it's soon or not-so-soon.

Knowing the shipment of books helps you make an informed decision on the second part of the question. You don't need to order books via Most bookstores accept book orders. So why funnel your income towards a big, online conglomerate when your money can instead go to local bookstores that provide you with the same services? Here's a quick summary Amazon's shipping rates to the Philippines, assuming we take the cheapest service:
  • Amazon is charging $6.99 for any book shipment. That means whether we're getting one book or a dozen, there's the flat $6.99 fee to pay. It's a good thing to do bulk orders in this case, because the cost is more spread out among the various titles. If you're just ordering one book, an initial fee of $6.99 is easily the cost of the paperback book itself.
  • Amazon is charging $4.99 for each item in the shipment. That means in addition to the $6.99 shipping charge, there's an additional $4.99 for each item. Buying in bulk doesn't help as this cost applies to each and every item. So the next time you think you're getting a book "cheap" at Amazon, remember to add $4.99 to the cost.
  • 11 to 40 business days. Keep in mind, they're counting by business days. That usually excludes holidays and weekends.
Now Amazon has other shipping rates but that's the cheapest. If you want to receive the book sooner, you might want to avail of those other shipping options but remember, the shipping rates will be higher. That's also not to say you should never order from Amazon if price is a concern (availability and rarity is one reason why you should consider ordering from Amazon). But as far as paperbacks go, the discounts (anywhere from none to 20%) isn't enough to offset the shipping costs. Hardcovers, on the other hand, are a different matter, mainly because Amazon gives huge discounts on them. Take for example Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Amazon is giving buyers a 49% discount, reducing the actual cost to $17.99. Factor in all the other shipping costs and you end up with $29.97. Multiply that with today's exchange rate and it's costing you P1343.26 to order the book. Not bad, considering the book is going for P1400+ in most local bookstores. But you have to bear in mind, that's because the book is quite expensive (at $34.99) and Amazon is giving a huge discount (49%). The per-book cost can go down if you order more books (spreading $6.99 among the number of books you ordered). But remember, think twice when buying paperbacks. Fahrenheit 451, with a retail price of $6.99, can end up costing you P850.24, even when you can get the same book for half the price locally.

I've talked enough about Amazon, let's talk about the local bookstores and why you should order from them. They may not be able to give you the huge discounts but at least shipping won't be such a huge burden on you as it's factored in to their daily shipment of books. I discussed in a previous blog entry about the various conversion rate of various bookstores. You can end up as cheaply as paying P40.00 against the dollar depending on which bookstore you shop. Those big discounts don't apply to ordered books. You'll most likely be paying more against the dollar, around P60.00 = $1.00 back when the local exchange rate was P55.00 = $1.00. And depending on which bookstore you shop, your discount card might not apply. Nonetheless, that's a great deal when you're ordering paperback books. Even assuming that it's costing you P60.00 = $1.00, Fahrenheit 451 will cost you roughly P420.00 (again, half the price it would have cost you to order from Amazon).

The second question when ordering from bookstores is how long it takes before they actually acquire the book. In Powerbooks, it took them anywhere from one to two months (personal experience, although their website has a new delivery date). A Different Bookstore gives me a better timetable, two weeks was the fastest (a fluke!) while four weeks is the norm. The key here is to place your order just after their shipment arrives. If you place your order in between shipments, the book order might only be processed once their next shipment arrives (or rather they might order it but it won't be in time for the next shipment). That means a longer wait for you.

The third question is availability. Thankfully, most bookstores can order whatever titles that Amazon can carry, barring used books. I'll give a summary of the various bookstores and their book ordering services:

National Bookstore/Powerbooks
Delivery Time: 3 - 5 weeks.
Selection: Books available at Amazon
50% of the cost of the book
Discount: No
More Info: Powerbooks and National Bookstore

A Different Bookstore
Delivery Time:
2 - 8 weeks
Selection: Books available at Amazon
full downpayment of the cost of the book, and refund/change/additional charges on the books when they finally arrive, depending on the current exchange rate.
Discount: Yes

Delivery Time:
2 - 8 weeks.
Selection: No limit, but no guarantees on hard-to-find books. Also searches secondhand bookstore market. (They buy used books so if you don't mind secondhand books, especially for rare titles, they can try to acquire it.)
Downpayment: 50% of the cost of the book
Discount: If you ask nicely
More Info: Booktopia

Aeon Books
Delivery Time:
Unknown (but I assume anywhere from 2 - 8 weeks)
Selection: Books available at Amazon
Downpayment: Just ask nicely and they'll try to get the book.
Discount: No

Fully Booked
Delivery Time:
Unknown (but I assume anywhere from 2 - 8 weeks) 2 - 6 weeks
Selection: Books available at Amazon (their stocks would suggest they can acquire European books and I tried ordering one but they never got back to me)
Downpayment: Fill out a form and they'll check if the book is available. Haven't progressed any further than that (they never got back to me, which I assume they weren't able to get the book) but I also assume there's a similar 50% downpayment once they can confirm they can get the book. 50% of the cost of the book.
Discount: Unknown Yes

This is all based on my experiences two years ago so any information presented may not be as accurate as I want it to be. If you want to add a bookstore or update any information, feel free to comment with the appropriate corrections and I'll edit the post.

1 comment:

banzai cat said...

Nice one, charles. :-) This will come in handy for me, too!