July 2, 2011

Pajama Musings - The wonderous ways of TBD

Some of you might have noticed (and also voted on) the small survey in the right side bar of my blog where I asked the following question, "Did you know that TBD reflects different prices for books on their site depending on your IP address aka the country you live in?"

Here are the results (total votes: 26)
65% (17 votes) I never heard about this before
3% (1 vote) That's kind of hard to believe
11% (3 votes) I heard about it somewhere
19% (5 votes) That's old news to me and I was actually confronted with this "problem" before

I did not vote on the survey myself, but after reading the rest of this blog post you will all know which answer I would have chosen. And you all will be a little wiser by the end of the post too. But let's start at the beginning ...

I guess it's safe to say that, by now, pretty much every book blogger, and all those book blog readers out there, have at least heard about The Book Depository. Especially when it comes to making giveaways international it comes in handy that TBD offers free delivery to many countries worldwide. And this is exactly the reason why and how I came to realize something others might, or mightn't, be aware of.

Recently I won a book of choice in a giveaway. I told the host of the giveaway which book I wanted and I felt even a little proud of myself for not totally maxing out my $11,00 limit by picking a book that cost about $2,00 less. Imagine my surprise when I got the ok for the book, which by the way, costs roughly $11,00. At first I thought this might have to do with ordering the book fom the .com site instead of the .uk site, but no. Then I received the book and it turned out it wasn't the paperback but the hardcover which I never even considered requesting as the price would have exceeded my $ limit by far. Still we are back to totally different prices because this $11,00 book showed up as almost $17,00 for me.

Then I participated in a Giveaway Hop, giving away books of choice worth up to $10,00, and when the first winner got back to me, sending along the link to the book she wanted, lo and behold, the book showed up under $10,00 for her while the screen greeted me with a price of $14,00.

Don't believe me? Just read on.

This is the screenshot of the book made myself on June 28th (you will notice that it mentions free shipping to Austria - where I live - which proves that I made the screenshot here, in Austria).

This is the screenshot of the book made by my friend Amy on June 28th (you will notice that it mentions free shipping to the US, where Amy lives).

Take a good look at both screenshots and then tell me what's ... uhm ... different.

The price! Exactly!!

Apart from the fact that prices may differ on the .com and .uk sites (don't ask me why, maybe this is some kind of promotional thing were certain books are offered at a discount on one site or the other) the real mystery is that I get to see a totally different price of a book than someone else will see on the same site. Hmmm ...

Taking this into account it can only mean one thing - it depends on where you are located what kind of prices will pop up on the screen. Usually a commercial site will adjust prices according to the delivery address you enter. Not so in this case. TBD evidently depends on your IP address and if it screams UK you'll get a whole different price for your books than you'd get when ordering from, say, Australia. Things start getting really interesting when you consider that ordering from the UK and sending something to Australia (again) will be cheapter than ordering something from Australia and have it sent to someone in the UK. You get the idea.

Surprised? I was. At least at first. Then it made perfect sense. How else would they be able to do the worldwide-free-delivery thing? Of course the cost for delivery is included in the price for a book and just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. Now you might wonder, why in the case of gifting a book to someone in a different country prices won't be adjusted during check-out.
Well, look at it from this side - everyone would soon find out that some are more equal than others. This would make the whole thing just plain obvious, wouldn't it?

When I asked for your votes on the survey a handfull of readers left feedback and gave some interesting input to the matter. There's been mentioned the possibility of a warehouse in the US which might explain why prices for the US are that much cheaper than prices for mainland Europe. Yet an US reader commented they had received their order directly from the UK. Another interesting comment was that maybe VAT had to do with the different prices, but then again TBD only applies VAT within the EU, and even if it were applicable I don't see how $9,49 plus 10% VAT for Austria could total $13,59.

So, to get back to that little survey. Only few knew about this pricing tactic of TBD, a few have heard about it somewhere, one person didn't really believe my claim, and most votes show that people have never before heard about it. Admittedly the only way to actually notice this is when you want to gift a book to someone in another country and have a limit of how much to spend. I guess TBD never considered book bloggers and their giveaways to expose them *lol*.

Bottom line is that I still consider TBD an awesome source to buy and especially to gift books. Prices are often unbeatable compared to other online shops and even with this "fluctuations" in pricing you still get a good deal at the end of the day. Well, alright, maybe not in the case of the above mentioned winner who then received an Amazon GC instead *sigh*.

What's your opinion on this issue?
Let me know!


  1. You're from Austria? Well, hello there, neighbor! :)

    You know what I always do when I'm lucky enough and win something from TBD and I know the person that will order the book for me is from the US?
    I open the TBD page with Hide My Ass. It's a web proxy that hides my IP address and gives me a US IP. This way I see the same price as the person who'll order the book for me.

    Maybe your next US winner (or someone not from the EU) could use a web proxy located in the EU (like proxy-service.de for instance--it gives you a German IP). This way he or she will see the same price as you do.

  2. Good Idea to use proxy. I'm going to do it now to see the difference in book prices because there are a few books that I want to order can not as the prices for those paerticular paperbacks on TBD are way too expensive :)

  3. I noticed that too, but I didn't pay it too much attention until you brought it up. Hmmm... I'm not sure what to think about all this.

    Someone sent me a book from the US via TBD and it cost them more than it would have cost me if I had bought it myself from EU. So yes, it get can nasty when gifting books, but at least the prices difference it's not that big (like it is on Amazon, where shipping a book to Romania -where I live- is double the price of the book!)

    So I do get all my books from TBD and I choose between .com and .co.uk depending on the price they show.:D I also noticed that the shipping time depends on if you order from .com or .co.uk: I can receive a book in five days or in ten. Oh, and also there's the difference between the currencies - if you choose US or EUR. Hmmm... TBD is such a wonder!:)) But it's still very useful.

    Oh, and there must be a warehouse in Austria too, because apparently, that's where my books come from!:D

  4. Proxy!! And there's me thinking how to evade the whole IP thing! So thanks for the tip!

    While I noticed that books can be slightly different priced on .com and .uk I didn't know there is also a difference in how long it takes to receive a book.

    And what's that about a warehouse in Austria!? I always receive mine from the UK ... ah, TBD sure is a wonder, Deea, you're right about that :-D !

    BTW anyone ever notice something else that's rather weird? Sometimes I can see a book is available while another person (in the US in this particular case) will see it as currently not available?

  5. This is a great post. Hmm... makes me wonder how different price could be for me if I had a different ISP and not a US one.

    @Birgit I've had that happen to me countless times.

    And I've had the same issue as Deea. Depending on which domain I buy from, it takes either 1 or 2 weeks. This last batch of books I got took really long to get here. They were from the .co.uk site.

  6. @FreakChiq Thanks for the tip, I'll try that too!;)

    @Birgit Yup, when I go to the Post Office they tell me the packages came from Austria. Who knows why how all this works?:))

    I guess they have a store (or warehouse or whatever they have) somewhere in the US for the .com orders and one in EU for the .co.uk orders (or maybe even more than one and the Austria one is the closest to Romania and that's why the packages come from there). Anyway, maybe that's why it depends how long it takes to a package to arrive. Weird!

    And yes, I've noticed that too. Someone was asking about this on Twitter: they wanted to order in US a book that was initially released in UK and TBD said they didn't get the rights for the US edition yet or something like that so it wasn't available for them. Weird, complicated etc. We need more International stores! :))

  7. I totally didn't know that, and so interesting to find out..I'm curious now to see the price difference for books sent to Australia. Thanks for the insightful post.

  8. I didn't know about the price differences. One thing I have noticed with TBD is that their UK prices are almost always just 1 pence cheaper than Amazon UK's prices, so that's generally how their UK prices are worked out... I wonder if this is the same for their US prices etc?

  9. The Australian prices on TBD are always slightly dearer ($2-$5) than the US and UK, but still up to half the price of me buying it from a store here so I don't mind so much.
    Did you also notice - the further away from the publication date the cheaper the book is? You can save a fortune by pre-ordering 2-3 months in advance.

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  10. I only came to know this recently because I never bought books from online stores before because the shipping prices are horrendous. It was only recently I discovered Book Depository (I've been living under a rock, apparently :P)and this bit of information popped up when I dug around for 'research'. The price differences usually doesn't bother me because they were slight but just today I came across a book that I really wanted and it showed up as $18 from my end while it was only $13 using a US proxy. $5 is roughly 15 of my local currency so it was quite a lot. I shall have to get my US cousin/friend to help me purchase it. :O