Exchange Rates Revisited: U.S. Dollar and the Cost of Books

Includes: UDN, UUP
by: Bob McTeer

As now, the dollar was in general decline against some currencies during September 2007. The Euro was strong against the dollar; the British pound reached $2 per pound and the Canadian dollar reached 1 to 1 parity with the dollar.

I have always kept track of the U.S./Canadian dollars by comparing the two prices inside new book dust covers. I wrote about this here on October 4, 2007 in a post titled McTeer on Dollars and Books.

Chairman Greenspan’s book, The Age of Turbulence, was released on September 17, 2007, priced at U.S. $35.00 and Canada $43.50. That was a 24 percent difference despite the parity in the exchange markets that month. His publisher obviously didn’t think the parity would hold.

The Prince of Darkness by Robert Novak had come out a little earlier with a 27 percent difference. Other books I bought around that time had a similar premium on the dollar, the lowest being 21 percent.

With dollar weakness again in the news, I’ve done a bit of empirical research on my recent purchases. A Colossal Failure of Common Sense, The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers by Lawrence G. McDonald and Patrick Robinson is priced at $27.00 U.S. and $33.00 Canadian. That’s a 22 percent premium for the U.S. dollar, in line with two years ago.

In Fed we Trust by David Wessel is priced at $26.99 U.S. and $33.99 Canadian. That’s a 26 percent premium, still in the middle of the range of two years ago. So was Glenn Beck’s, Arguing With Idiots, (a gift) at 23 percent–$29.99 U.S. and $36.99 Canadian.

This Time is Different, Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff was a gift from my son who was vastly overestimating my scholarship and patience. Speaking of patience, Ken Rogoff and I once spent a week with Ken in London one afternoon visiting financial firms there. He was a delightful guy and great company for a professor at a school that doesn’t have a good football team. Anyway the publisher of Ken’s book apparently punted on the exchange rate question. The price was $35.00 U.S. with no Canadian price listed. I’d better not speculate, so that’s all I have to say about that.

Hold on. Stop the presses. I just bought Charles Gasparino’s The Sellout. Same thing: A USA price of $27.99 with no Canadian price.

Do I have to have a conclusion? What about “The dollar hasn’t really lost any value in the last two years in terms of books, but some publishers are backing away.”