I'm back from England, which was fun and informative (I'm a big British history fan), but probably would have been a lot better if I wasn't sick with a bad cold and fever the whole time. Well, some things you can't control. Comments are back on.
A couple observations about the English book market:
(1) I saw my first-ever book vending machine in the airport. Awesome.
(2) With everything outrageously expensive in London against the dollar, I was surprised at how reasonably books seemed to be priced. While other products just seemed to have the same price as in America (1.00 for water) only it was in pounds so it was doubled (really $2.00 for water), books generally had lower retail prices than they do here, to reflect that the pound is worth more than the dollar and always has, even though the rates were much better when I was in Oxford in 1998. One novel that cost about $13.95 here cost 7.95 quid there, which was astoundingly fair.
(3) From the bookstores I was in (and believe me, I made the time for it, especially the used ones), it seems that the British are more into trade paperbacks than we are, an important cost-saving measure that I'm surprised we haven't done here. I saw new books that are only available in hardcover here in the States on sale as gigantic trade paperbacks on the front shelves. The downside, of course, is that you'll kill the spine with a huge book like that, but the book is lighter and costs a bit less.
(4) I saw a lot of books that had a glossy plastic cover over them. When I saw people reading them in the underground I thought it was just a library thing, but in a used bookstore, there was a giant pile of donations and most of them had the same plastic cover. Maybe British readers can tell me if this is something that's done regularly. It seems a nice way to protect the book.