Yay for a book promo that carries a lot of weight

December 20, 2017 - 09:00

A book company in Hà Nội drew a lot of attention last weekend with a marketing ploy that the country was seeing for the first time.

Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí
Viet Nam News

By Khanh Linh

A book company in Hà Nội drew a lot of attention last weekend with a marketing ploy that the country was seeing for the first time.

For its year-end sales event called “Year-end Book Hotpot,” the company said books would be sold by weight instead of the usual discounts on the cover price.

It said 25 tonnes of books on all subjects, including politics, economics, business administration, science and fiction, would be sold at a fixed rate of VNĐ88,000 (US$3.9) per kilogramme.

The company, justifiably to my knowledge, claimed that it was the first such promotional campaign in the country. It was an experiment in selling books at lowest possible prices, a company representative said.

However, not all book lovers were happy. On social websites, netizens interpreted the campaign as denigrating books, reducing it to the way old scrap paper is sold for recycling.  

Books are a source of knowledge, so this kind of selling was disrespectful and would hurt authors, they said.

Thiên Sang, a reader in HCM City, wrote on her Facebook status that she felt so bad about the idea of reducing the value of books by selling them by the kilo that she would definitely not participate in this promotion.

Some other people, though, saw this outrage as an overreaction.

Lê Thị Phương Linh, a student at the Hà Nội University, said books, eventually, are a commodity that only carries value if they are purchased. Selling them by weight was just one among many ways that companies use to clear their inventory, she said.

“For me, it makes no difference between buying books from a book vendor or a second-hand book store near my university and buying them by the kilo. The most important part is that the books will land on somebody’s bookshelf and deliver knowledge or fun for someone, instead of being stocked unsold and then sold as scrap. So why make such a fuss?”

Linh said she believed that a good book would retain its own value and be welcomed by readers no matter how it is sold. Moreover, the prices of books were generally high compared to the average income of people, especially graduates and students, who need to read the most.

So the new marketing method should be welcomed instead, she said.

Lan Anh, a reader among hundreds who attended the sale, said she found the event quite interesting and new chance for people to buy books at very cheap prices. For just a small amount of money, she could buy many more books than the previous times she’d been to a sale.

Such events should be expanded to encourage a regular reading habit among people, she felt.

Vũ Quỳnh Hương, a writer, a poet and a journalist, said that the opposition of authors and readers to the idea of selling books by weight was easy to understand and emphasize with, but even books, like any other commodity, would at some point become old products and need to be replaced by new ones.

“Of course this is happening at a time when the book company has completed its obligations to the author, including (protecting) copyrights and (sharing) profits from consumption,” she said.

“It will happen at a time the old products need to be discarded, and the beneficiaries here are readers,” Hương said.

In the digital era, when the reading habit appears to be on the wane, any campaign that makes people buy books (and read them), should be welcomed, I feel.

As someone who likes to read, the prospect of getting books cheap is appealing to me. I think people should remember that new books are not being launched by the kilo, it is books that have not been sold for a certain period of time that can be bought by weight.

Just imagine, you buy three kilos books for about $12. And among these is a classic, be it of any genre, fiction, philosophy, psychology or other sciences, for which you would have easily paid the entire $12. Imagine you get three or four such books in that 3-kilo package.

I rest my case. – VNS