I had client who used our company's application for his books distribution business. During that time, 3 factors made the street price so expensive.
1. Currency conversion - eg when a US dollar was traded at RM 2.50, our program rate put it as RM 5.00. Likewise the British pound was RM 10.00 when it was RM 6.60. The conversion rate is agreed upon and regulated by their guild association.
2. 30% written off loss - assuming that 30% of his books on consignment would be returned by the bookshops/retailers when they become unsaleable after a period of 6 months (off the best seller list) or due to poor book conditions based on Malaysia's high reading habits at the bookshelf rather than their houses. The soiled or badly handled books were then disposed at the second hand market at 50% - 70% discount. Some are even disposed off at the nominal written off value of RM 1.00. Some are even donated to foundations.
3. The shipping cost of best sellers where they are flown in. And based on small quantity shipped in, the high handling and shipping cost is not helping either.
And of course their profit margin. But generally this business depends on volume sales. The big boys are making their money from institutional buyers and their presence at shopping mall is to create best sellers and textbooks awareness and this helps in their sale to their institutional buyers.