Fuse #8

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Chain Stores Crucial? Pah.

Lots of independent bookstore news out there today. Some is good. Some is bad. Some is less than lovely.

First, off is the recent refusal some independents have shown towards stocking the upcoming Harry Potter book. So let me get this straight. Because independent British bookstores can't sell Harry Potter for prices lower than their chainish equivalents, they've instead opted not to sell them at all? How exactly does that work? I can understand not buying them in bulk, but how does one lose money if you have a couple around for faithful customers?

And then from the side of authors who wish to support independents but also want to make mucho money there's Chain of Fools?: Love them or hate them, chain stores are crucial to book sales. As the daughter of a woman who once worked in Kalamazoo, Michigan's oldest independent (and possibly last) bookstore until it was forced out by B&N, I read the article with interest. I remember all too well how faithful authors would come to The Athena to do book signings and then, a year later, do them at B&N without a by-your-leave. I can understand why someone would want to split their time between the big chains and the small independents, but let's remember that some authors don't even care where it is that they sign insofar as it makes them lots of money. And I'm afraid that Ms. Werris loses points for using the term "paradigm shift" with a straight face. Thanks to Bookseller Chick for that particular link.

So is the independent bookstore a dying breed? Maybe not. Consider, for example, that 5 new independent bookstores have just opened. NYC may be ranked dead last nationally in "bookselling stores per resident" with one store for every 43,000 residents, but you want a Taschen store? We've got Taschen out the wazoo. Thanks to Galleycat for the link.

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At 10:26 AM , Blogger Jennifer Schultz said...

When the last one came out, I remember reading that it wasn't profitable for independents to stock them. The parties, staying open late, etc weren't profitable either-I remember it ending up costing some more than they expected (or they didn't sell that much more after people bought them at their release date party). People were buying them from Amazon, Sam's/Costco, B&N/Borders/etc at deep discounts. You could even get it at drugstores like Walgreens or Rite Aid (and some had it out before the release date, and people knew where to get them).

At 3:47 PM , Anonymous tb in nyc said...

Love the blog, which I've only recently discovered, but your comments about authors signing at chain stores hit a little bit of a nerve... Please remember that authors don't set up tours, publishers do. Any author who doesn't have a fresh Caldecott or Newbery on the wall at home is not really in a position to diva it up about schedule. Also, for those of us buried in the backs of catalogues, who aren't being sent to ALA and whose numbers are on no-one's speed dial up in marketing, every sale counts. It's not a choice between 'lots of money" and integrity... Those chain store sales can mean the difference between receiving royalties or not. Between making enough to scratch out a living and not. I literally can't afford to miss an opportunity to sell books, however much that author betrayal scene in "You've Got Mail" makes me squirm.

At 4:23 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

In my experience this is very true. However, as an author gains in stature, they have more of a say as to where they go. And if an author has faithfully attended an independent and then switches to a chain (which happened to my mother's store a fair amount of times, "You've Got Mail", notwithstanding) then I find that less than stellar behavior. My beef is not with the up-and-coming authors but those with some sway under their belts.

At 7:11 PM , Blogger Rozum said...

At our independant book store (Shaman Drum Bookshop, Ann Arbor, MI) we did very well with the last Harry Potter book. We did the Midnight sale event, with Borders competing only a block and a half away.

We actually had lots of people come to us instead for a number of reasons, one of which was to avoid having to wait in the much longer line at Borders.

The paperback version of the same book, however, moved at an incredibly slow rate. We still have plenty of our original stock of this book.

There are many big name authors whose new hardcover books we only bother to stock a couple of copies of--for regulars, because we know that people are going to walk around the corner to pick it up for the 40% off we simply can't offer.

As for authors, we've had them, both big name, and unknown, doing well for us to varying degrees. The only time we felt burned by an author spurning us for Borders, was Salman Rushdie, who had slammed the chain stores for their handling of "Satanic Verses" while singing the praises of the support the independants gave him.


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