Deals and Coupon Programs

If I were to develop a designer fashion habit, there are no shortage of email-based and app-based shopping opportunities for me. A whole mess of designer deals are rounded up daily, sometimes twice-daily, by sites like Ideeli, Plundr, Daily Deals, and Daily Candy so if you take a look, suddenly, you – ok, I’ll be honest, ME – find yourself really really needing a strapless dress because it’s 60% off (and holy holy of miracles it is in your size and might possibly fit). The opportunity-buy is a terrible temptation.

I’m susceptible to deals in Target and oh Lordy, do I know it. I don’t go NEAR the $1 collection of stuff I don’t really need unless it’s car trip time and I need In-car activities. Hell, I don’t even go into the Dollar Stores near me. And if there was ever a big temptation with a cash register out front, it’s a dollar store. You go in for one thing, like party favors or something, and WHAM. You have spent a lot more than $1. Big Lots is like that too – a big neon orange temptation of evil goodness.

Yet I love me some coupons. I save coupons for grocery shopping like my grandmother did, minus the accordion file, and I feel a really sick sense of kickass when I get more than $10 off my grocery bill with a stack of coupons. I have up to six different grocery stores that I can choose from, and I have coupons for each one, plus the frequent-shopper card. I even think about re-subscribing to the Sunday newspaper ONLY for the coupon sections, which is just ridiculous.

The funny thing is, as much as I buy books, I don’t have a coupon fetish for books, which I buy almost as often as I buy food, nor do I jump on discounts.

I don’t easily fall for deals like that when it comes to books. I was never a Fictionwise Micropay person, where once upon a time, you could buy books for the 100% micro pay rebate and end up with many, many dollars to spend on books. I know folks who had a LOT of micro pay to spend when Fictionwise started to lose all the books worth having in its catalog. When there’s a buy one-get one 50% book deal at Borders, I don’t often use it. Clothing, shoes, and jewelry at 40-60% off, I will take a serious look. Books that are half off? I don’t really jump on that because usually the collection isn’t romance, or doesn’t contain books I want. A coupon for a certain percentage off a book usually starts with “buy one and get…” and I don’t often use them because they don’t feel like a real bargain to me, even though mathematically I am getting half off a book. I’m still paying full price for the other one – and that’s why I wasn’t a big MicroPay fan, either.

I think it’s partially because I seek out specific books to read and take recommendations from people at the moment or soon after the recommendation. But the coupons and the books I seek or am told about don’t often line up in the time-bargain continuum. I don’t always have a coupon when there’s a book I want to buy. I also think it is partially because I buy so many digital books, and there are hardly any coupons that apply to digital book purchases (Hi Agency Publishers. Thanks for that).

What I find utterly baffling about my own buying habits is that I am an impulse buyer – when I have a reason. If someone I trust recommends a book to me, I will download a sample or the whole book in seconds, before I forget what the title was (which I will, because I can’t remember titles to save my petard). I book shop wherever I am, if I have my phone or device with me. But I don’t have coupons for bookstores or retailers that I use and pay attention to regularly like grocery stores, department stores, and household goods stores. If I did have straight up X-Amount-Off coupons for books, they’d live in my wallet and I’d use them incessantly.

I was thinking about this because I do my grocery shopping on the weekend and, for me, books are a necessity. They aren’t a luxury good that I can be tempted to buy with a sizable discount, like expensive bags or shoes or clothing from labels that involve a lot of vowels and maybe an umlaut. But they aren’t a necessity that comes with a variety of coupon or discount options, the way my groceries do, either.

One of my teeth-gritting frustrations with the Agency agreement for ebooks is that it focuses on the people selling the books rather than the customers who are buying them – which is just ridiculously short sighted from my perspective, but then, I’m the person buying the books, after all. The terms of the Agency agreement also limit or eliminate whether any book seller can offer a discount on an ebook, which means no coupons good for any book I wish to grab in the near future.

I think the Amazon Prime program and the Barnes and Noble membership programs work very well – for paper books. (To my knowledge the BN membership discount doesn’t apply to ebooks, but please correct me if I am wrong or if that has changed recently). You subscribe to the program, and you get discounts or free shipping – or both.  And I know that the BN members get coupons in the mail every now and again. I wonder if, with the changing methods of selling books, there will be coupons or membership programs for ebooks as well as paper books soon, and what types of programs would work for different readers.

Are you a coupon person? Do you use book coupons for paper or ebooks? What kind of discount or coupon would work really well for you for your book buying? If you could design a book coupon program, what would you want? Coupons that can be used at any bookstore on a specific book, or coupons that are bookstore-specific? What’s your ideal (and yet realistic!) coupon for a book?


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    mia says:

    I still mostly read paper books, so the Borders rewards coupons work for me.  Every week I get a coupon for 30% or 40% off the item of my choice.  Its the only way hardcovers fit in my budget, otherwise I stick with my library.  I don’t have an ereader, but I love my Ipod and find myself looking for deals in audiobooks.

  2. 2
    Meg says:

    If I lived in the States maybe I would be more cavalier about book-buying, but given that it is a lot more expensive where I am book buying is strictly with coupons or on sale. Otherwise I head to the library.

    And I’m not fussy about my coupons. Any type will do.

    captcha: which42. When I get a coupon, I have to decide which of the 42+ titles on my to-read list I should buy.

  3. 3
    Milena says:

    I used some Amazon offers, such as 3-for-2, which would usually lead to getting some long-lost classics or one of the books-I’ve-been-meaning-to-read-forever-but-never-got-round-to-it kind of thing.

    But then I found bookdepository, and never looked back, because of one simple thing: free shipping. (Given Amazon’s shipping rates, in the past, I would often team up with friends to get just one package and split the shipping costs.)

    Other than that, I think that I have never used coupons and discounts on specific titles. It’s because books are so specific: I don’t look for any historical that I haven’t read—I want the new Loretta Chase; I’m not tempted by any new fantasy—I want the new Steven Brust title, and so on. And when it comes to authors I love, I don’t look at the price, either, and buy them in hardcovers. It gives me the double pleasure of reading the title as soon as its possible and, at the same time, rewarding the authors more. Not that it’s good for my budget… or for my shelf-space.

  4. 4
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I’m with mia. Borders has the best coupons, IMO. A percentage straight off any book (usually – at times they have deals on specific titles). And they have sales on romances occasionally, usually of the buy 3 get one free variety. And I get at least one coupon a week. They also have Borders Bucks, which accumulate as you buy, and you get $5 off your purchase.

    No, I don’t work for Borders. ;) But I’d be glad to, if they want to hire me.

    I would love to see coupons for e-books, or downloadable audiobooks.

  5. 5
    joanne says:

    I think we may be shopping twins. The difference in what I buy in dollar stores and Big Lots, and that type of store, is that what I buy there I think I need. Or will need in the future. Or need 5 of those things I may need sometime.

    With books it’s all about what I want. Now. Or as soon as possible.

    For paper books Amazon Prime has proven to be the best deal for me. Free shipping, plus pre-ordering gets the lowest price and I love it when Amazon takes 12 cents off my credit card due to a lower price point. So cute.

    I’d like a “forever”  percentage off coupon on ebooks. Whatever the cover price is on the paper book then I would get that “forever” percentage off if I buy the ebook instead. I would get that for all the reasons that have already been stated a billion times by ebook buyers; the publishers save on shipping and fuel, warehouse storage, no returns, etc.

  6. 6
    Ruth says:

    I read this and weep, because I’m still miles behind.  I (stupidly) bought a Kindle, and now find book after book after book that I’d pay for that isn’t available to me because I live in Australia.  When will publishers and authors and agents wake up to this?  I thought my Kindle would become part of my big big reading habit.  instead, it’s gathering dust.  The device istself is fine; content availability to Australia is dire, stupid and endlessly frustrating.  I wish I’d never bought it.

    So forget coupons (I buy paper books from Book Depository, whose free shipping beats the lot on single titles); as regards e-books, I’d settle for being ABLE to buy what I want at an acceptable retail price.

    Maybe in five years’ time it will be different.  By then, I’ll have a vintage Kindle very likely still in nearly mint condition.

    Code: others32.  That would be US Kindle owners having what feels like 32 times more books they can buy as opposed to use second-class overseas peasants who aren’t worth selling to.  Bitter?  Angry?  Me?  Yup.

  7. 7
    SB Sarah says:

    @mia and @laura: I agree – Borders is very friendly with the coupons – but alas, due to all the store closings, I have no Borders near me. Do you use the coupons online or in the store?

    @ruth That SUCKS OUT LOUD. I’m so sorry to hear that! Are you finding books elsewhere that you can’t put on your Kindle but are basically no books available to you down in Oz?

  8. 8
    SB Sarah says:

    Also: I realized while looking at my coupons that I have two kinds of food coupons. Some are from the manufacturer of the product, and some are from the store. I know Borders and BN and Amazon etc have their own store coupons and deals – but do publishers ever offer coupons off a book that you’re aware of? So many of them have direct-to-consumer storefronts. But my quick search just now doesn’t reveal any coupons – and I’m guessing they are not set up for that type of consumer discount interaction.

    You’d think they’d be all, “Wait, we’ve reduced or eliminated the price discounting that other retailers can offer. Why don’t we offer 30% off at our own storefront? We can be like Ellora’s Cave! Anywhere else, the book is your mortgage payment but here at our home site, it’s $5.99!”

  9. 9
    MicheleKS says:

    Most of the Borders coupons I get are for 25% off which is a pretty good discount because even after you add the sales tax it’s still reduces the price of the book. If a coupon isn’t for 20% or more off the price of something I won’t use it.

  10. 10
    Trippinoutmysoul says:

    When we were still stationed Stateside (3 years ago) I had a BooksaMillion card that yielded pretty decent discounts, and if there’s a BaM near our next duty station, I won’t hesitate to sign back up. Books are a necessity for me, ranking somewhere after cigarettes and before Dr. Pepper.
    I’d be more interested in store-specific book coupons rather than book-specific, because I read a variety of genres and won’t buy a book I’m not interested in just because I have a coupon. I’d go for “10% off any Hardback from This Store”, but never “10% off Some Book Outside Your Realm of Interest”.

  11. 11
    Terry Odell says:

    I used to do the major food coupon thing, but too often buying store brands ended up being cheaper than the big brand even after the coupon was deducted. Plus, now it’s just the two of us. I do like the BB&B coupons (and they’re good for about 2 years after the expiration date, so I hoard them—which was a Major Savings when we moved and had to buy everything). Books? I belong to The Mystery Guild for mysteries (and they carry some romance). I just ordered the Nook Color, and we’ll see if that hikes up my book spending. The lack of places to store books has made me think four times before buying a new print book.

    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist—of Mystery

  12. 12

    I’m a Borders Rewards fan.  I not only depend on the 33% or 40% off coupons each week, but I like the additional discount I get plus the points I accrue to Win Free Cash!  This past week I purchased the new Robin McKinley hardcover, Pegasus, for $1.55 using a combination of Borders Bucks, coupon and the free shipping that goes with the Gold Rewards status.

    I never have to worry about not using a coupon since I always have “to be purchased” books on my Borders Wishlist.

    I also grumble a little but appreciate their in-store only coupons, since it makes me go to my local store where I can greet the staff (who appreciate loyal customers), browse the books, and keep the money in my local economy.

    For me, Borders is a winner.

  13. 13
    Jody W. says:

    I used a Borders coupon and took advantage of a Booksamillion 20% off sale just this weekend. As for groceries, the Publix around here takes all coupons, even if they have another store’s name on them, which simplifies matters. I saved @ $27 the other day, just in coupons!

  14. 14
    Brian says:

    I know Borders and BN and Amazon etc have their own store coupons and deals – but do publishers ever offer coupons off a book that you’re aware of?

    Penguin usually has a discount code (usually 15% off) in their monthly email newsletter, unfortunately ever since the agency deals took effect the code isn’t good on ebooks anymore.

  15. 15

    I WAS a Fictionwise Micropay person, and the death of Micropay didn’t bother me nearly so much as the death of the vast majority of my wishlist off that site. I buy from Fictionwise a lot less than I used to, and generally they only tempt me back in if they’re having a significant discount day. Last time they did that, it was a fifty percent off your whole order all weekend kind of deal, and I did come back to them for that.

    The vast majority of my ebook purchases are from B&N right now, to fill up my nook. I am also a B&N member and was long before the nook showed up—and it vexes me that I can’t use that membership on my ebook buying. It HAS significantly impacted my paper book buying, though, and so the periodic coupons they hand out to B&N members are about the only way I’ll go in and get something in print these days. (Unless one of my shortlist of Authors I Want in Print Anyway has a new release, in which case I’ll go get that anyway.)

    Deals on purses and dresses and shoes and things? Don’t care. Other women buy purses and dresses and shoes and things, me, I buy books. ;)

  16. 16
    Jessica says:

    When I bought paper books AND lived near a Borders I regularly used the weekly coupons.  Now I hardly ever buy paper books and the nearest Borders is over 30 miles away, I haven’t used one in ages.  I would love some Amazon coupons since that is where I do all my book buying now, but until then I’m happy with my prime membership

  17. 17
    Brian says:

    You’d think they’d be all, “Wait, we’ve reduced or eliminated the price discounting that other retailers can offer. Why don’t we offer 30% off at our own storefront? We can be like Ellora’s Cave! Anywhere else, the book is your mortgage payment but here at our home site, it’s $5.99!”

    AFIAK they way the agency deals are set up if the publisher sells it for less on their own site then Amazon, B&N, Kobo, et al can lower their price to match that lower price.  Most publishers aren’t in the right mind frame to build a nice online store and sell stuff themselves with extra benefits to consumers, their online stores are pretty much an afterthought.  Many publishers, especially the biggies in NY, still see distributors and retailers (Amazon, B&N, WalMart etc) as their customers as opposed to the individual buyer.

  18. 18
    Nadia says:

    I love me a good discount and do use coupons for shopping groceries and stuff.  I don’t live near enough to a Borders or B&N or any other new book store to do any real shopping, though.  For new books, I’ll take the discounts from Amazon on trade or hardback, and Target on paperback.

    For used books, though, Half-Price Books has periodic coupon weeks, and I am all over that.  40% off a book on Monday or Tuesday, 30% off a book on Wednesday or Thursday, 20% off a book on Friday or Saturday, and 50% off a book on Sunday.  Why, yes, I was there four days last week.  Percent off already half-off is a bargain, but of course you are limited to what’s been brought in.  But it’s a good way to glom backlist or try a new author.

  19. 19
    Becky says:

    Kobo has coupons pretty regularly, and I go nuts every time.  Not all ebooks qualify for the coupons (thank you, Agency Model), but many do.  Harlequin is really good about that.  At one point I had almost every Carina Press book thanks to Kobo.  (I’ve fallen behind lately thanks to internet problems and the realization that at the rate I was buying I was going to have enough books for two lifetimes pretty soon.)

    Sometimes I find out about Kobo coupons through other readers, but usually it’s by following them on twitter.

  20. 20
    StacieH4 says:

    I use a lot of grocery coupons and we do get the Sunday paper primarily for the ads…though DH reads the Sports section too.  I routinely save 20% or more on my weekly bill.  Yay!  What irks me is that many coupons require the purchase of 2 or 3 or more items to save a few cents.  Why can’t manufacturers just give 40 cents off a box of cereal instead of making you buy 5 boxes to save 2 bucks.?

    As for books, since I got the Sony reader last year I don’t buy too many paper books.  I have a B&N membership but haven’t used it this year.  Even if it was good for eBooks, my Sony can’t read BNePub format anyway…grrr.  A few months ago, Target had Sony giftcards on sale for 40% off so I got a bunch of those and now have an account at the Sony store.  I get a lot of my eBooks there.  Plus, our library just started lending eBooks.  They don’t have much of a selection yet but I hope it will build quickly.

  21. 21
    Beth says:

    I don’t like to pay full price for anything. I use coupons, shop the sale or clearance racks, or go thrifting. For me, finding a good deal is half the fun. Groceries and the “omg we are out of ______, we need some RIGHT NOW” situations are the exception to the rule.
    So I never pay full price for books, unless I’ve been given a gift card to Barnes and Noble. I don’t pay for their membership, so I don’t get the discount.  If I’m buying from a major retailer, it’s usually Borders because they usually send out a weekly coupon. The down side to that is that you can only buy one item at a time. Also, there have been multiple occasions where they don’t have what I’m looking for in the store.
    For the most part I skip the major retailers, and shop used bookstores or library bookstores. (The libraries in my city have perpetual book sales, as opposed to semi-annual sales. It’s so cool.)

  22. 22
    Dora says:

    As far as coupons in general go, I have never been much for them. Growing up in a single-parent household, where we lived paycheck to paycheck, coupons were a big thing, and (rightly or wrongly) I still associate coupons with that niggling sense of embarrassment I had when I was six and my Mom was going through a big sheaf of them at the cash register just so we could afford groceries. I’m not saying you should be embarrassed by them, just that for me they’re kind of inextricably intertwined.

    As far as books go, well, generally the only time I bite on discounts, aside from membership cards, are on things like Amazon’s pre-order prices. I’ll be scrolling around, realise that Stephen King has a new book coming out that will UNDOUBTEDLY suck but I will ALSO UNDOUBTEDLY buy because I’m whipped like that, so I might as well order it now, when I can get it for the pre-order price of Whatever.99 instead of full value for something I’ll hate myself for reading later.

    I really should coupon shop more, especially with books, since I’ll walk in looking for something to read with my morning cup of coffee and walk out with three books I’ll read two pages of, decide they suck, and never touch them again. I guess for me, books are always one of those things that are okay to splurge on once in a while; even if it’s a trashy romance or a cheesy horror novel, it’s still better for you than a McMuffin.

  23. 23
    Colonel Angus says:

    Library, Library, Library! Or that’s what I keep telling myself, but it’s so hard when you can download a book in seconds. I’m not sure what gets me into more trouble, ebooks or bookstores. It’s hard to browse on my small Iphone screen for other books. In a bookstore all the possibilities are in front of me saying if you like her you like me too, or look at my pecks they’re larger than his

  24. 24
    allison says:

    I get almost all my ebooks from I like the “free book after 10 books” thing. I also like that there will randomly be percentages off or rebate rewards. I only wish that there was a way to combine payments there.

    For paper books – I buy wherever I get a discount. I work at a grocery store part time (mainly for the discount on the groceries) and I get a nice discount on books, too. I also joined Borders and B&N reward programs, too. Sometimes, Target is the cheapest for books and I’ll pop into there.

  25. 25
    mia says:

    Sarah, I’m in Southern CA and I have 3 Borders that are accessible to me.  I got in trouble w/my credit card a few years ago, so I go to the store and pay cash for most of my purchases. Also, the lady ahead of me in line had a coupon on her phone which I thought was awesome cause I ran out of printer paper and had to print my coupon on lined loose leaf paper. : P

  26. 26
    darlynne says:

    “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left over, I buy food and clothes.”—Erasmus

    I was a loyal Borders shopper when I read print books and never paid full price for a book. Yes, that meant I had to wait for the right coupon and could only buy one book at a time, but, as Darlene Marshall indicated, that was a great way to buy books.

    Recently B&N sent me a survey and I begged for Borders-like coupons for their ebooks. I so seldom bought print books from them because their coupons were always title-specific and I don’t read bestsellers.

    And then Fictionwise was more or less eviscerated and I’ve been stumbling in the ebook dark since.

    Until ebooks are routinely discounted (via coupon or the happy demise of Agency pricing), the best way I’ve found to save is to purchase gift cards at a discount, but I will definitely look at the other recommendations in this topic.

  27. 27
    Beth says:

    Coupons on a phone?! Who can tell me more about this?

  28. 28
    Isabel C. says:

    I’m generally a library girl, but I run out of books on the train—and take long trips—often enough that I do a fair amount of buying, too. (And will probably do more, when I have money, now that ebooks are more common: I’ve moved a lot, so buying Actual Things makes me twitchy, because they’re all stuff that will have to go in a box someday.)

    My problem with coupons is…I hate physical coupons. I’m no more organized than I absolutely have to be: keeping track of bits of paper, remembering to switch them from one bag to another, making sure I have them on me when I go to the store—which would require *planning* trips to the store—no! Hate! Why can’t there be a database in stores? I could scan my card, they could tell me the deals I have, and the discount could happen at the register?

    Then again, I’d totally have a microchip implanted in my head if it meant never having to keep track of my T pass again. ;)

  29. 29
    MarieC says:

    and I feel a really sick sense of kickass when I get more than $10 off my grocery bill with a stack of coupons

    Hi Sarah. BIG OL’ COUPON USER! I’ll admit it, I probably have a coupon for everything; restaurants, groceries, books,… you name it.  And I always look to see what money I’ve saved at the bottom of the receipt.

    @Mia, I live in So Cal too, and have numerous Border’s around me. When I get a Border’s coupon for 30% or more off a book, I’ll go on the hunt with my trusty phone, with the email. I thank the Border’s staffer who told me over a year ago I could save a tree if I could access my emails with my phone. Who knew? Otherwise, it’s off to my local UBS or Amazon.

    On a side note, I haven’t bought an ereader yet ( I’m still researching), but what cheeses me out the most is that there are no real discounts for ebooks. WTH! no production costs, no paper costs, no series bundle savings…you’d think the ‘books’ would be cheaper.

  30. 30


    On a side note, I haven’t bought an ereader yet ( I’m still researching), but what cheeses me out the most is that there are no real discounts for ebooks. WTH! no production costs, no paper costs, no series bundle savings…you’d think the ‘books’ would be cheaper.

    From all the posts I’ve seen on various publishing-related blogs about this, the physical production costs of a book are actually not a very big percentage of the cost of publishing it. A lot more of it goes to paying editors, copyeditors, cover artists, the people who design and lay out the book, and such, all of which are costs that still have to be accounted for even if it’s an ebook.

    Plus, bookstores take their own cut out of the price, and of course, there’s the royalty that needs to go to the author.

    So even though there’s no physical object to show for it, an ebook ain’t necessarily cheaper to make than a print one. FYI!

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