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Include price on back cover?

I read somewhere that bookstores won't stock a book if a price isn't included along with the ISBN on the cover.  I have no illusions that bookstores will be displaying stacks of my book, but it might be that someone would hear about the book and prefer to order it through a local bookshop rather than on line.  Would lack of a printed price cause problems in this situation?

In general, I am inclined not to include a price -- not only might I want to change it, but what if someone in Canada or elsewhere outside the U.S. orders it?  Are there any other aspects to including the price (or not) that I should be aware of?


  • Hi Classiclang,

    We do not recommend placing a price on the cover as your book will be displayed in multiple currencies that could fluctuate. If you want to place a price, we recommend to use the retail price. I have not heard of bookstores not stocking a book for this reason.

    The biggest obstacle to having your title in a physical bookstore is the no return policy of Print on Demand. Most bookstores require that unsold items can be returned. As such, we usually recommend that authors arrange a consignment agreement with the bookstore.
  • Thank you, Taylor.  I went back through my notes and found the original item that I had a vague recollection of (and which prompted me to post my question here).  It's from the Bowker website FAQ.  (For those who don't know, EAN-5 is the portion of the barcode that shows the price, one digit for currency and four for the amount: 51995 = U.S. $19.95).

    "The largest US retailers such as Barnes and Noble now require the use of EAN-5 barcode on books they handle. Scanners in American bookstores cannot read the Bookland EAN code without the corresponding 5-digit add-on. Publishers who don't comply with this requirement may be penalized."

    So it sounds like, in my scenario, the local bookstore could handle a copy if someone ordered it but big chains might not.  There is the option to make a barcode with 90000 as price, which means "price not shown / not set."  Any reason to include the blank price vs leaving out the EAN-5 altogether?
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    That sounds more like a POS and stock reordering barcode, not an ISBN. Retailers often add their own, and will have it printed on the covers if they order in that sort of bulk. I see no reason why a retailer should refuse to stock books that do not have the price on the cover, because they are often meaningless and the shops will sell for whatever price they see fit. It's not unusual to see the price on the back cover though. It's often a publisher's Recommended Retail Price.
  • The Bowker site was specifically addressing ISBN’s. I’m not familiar with what other codes retailers may add but this was a discussion of 13-digit ISBN‘s along with the five-digit price extension that is often printed right next to it and is generated as part of the process of producing the machine readable barcode.  Yes, of course, this is normally the recommended retail price. 

    What really got my attention was the statement that bookstore scanners cannot read the barcodes unless they include the price extension. If that’s correct, then it might be better to include the price at 90000 if one does not wish to actually show a price. 
  • On the ISBN bar code that we generate in the publishing process, we do include the 90000 extension.

    As Kevin stated, most bookstores will sell the book for what they want to sell it at or include discounts (such as Amazon Prime).
  • classiclangclassiclang Author
    edited May 2018
    Thank you, Taylor.  I'm bringing my own ISBN and so must obtain my own barcode to put on the cover.  I will include the 90000 "price" just to be safe -- it's good to know that Lulu does that with the barcodes you generate.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Some retailers will ask a manufacturer to include a price, just so they can 'reduce' it. Supermarkets and book clearance shops often sell for at least 50% off the indicated price. They do have to order a hell of a lot though. It's one of the reasons small book shops went out of business because they had no choice but to sell at the price on the cover because they could not order huge amounts. At one time many manufacturers had a 'RRP' and often insisted it was sold at that price, or they would not allow places to order from them, but that was made illegal.
  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    I agree with Taylor; don't do it. Bookstores will order your book if they like it whether or not you have a price. If you produce a good product they want it for their online catalogue and their store, with or without a return policy. They go looking for new books and if they're impressed they list and order.
     A citizen of the world.

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