books on the radio


Thoughts on the Arrival of Amazon to Canada

Cultural Industry? Online sales? Protecton from Competition?

A week or so ago I wrote a piece criticizing Chapters/Indigo for not having any stock of David Shields’ new hard cover front list title, Reality Hunger, a day after the announced release date.

Not only did they have no stock, they had yet to place an order for this book that was getting embarrassingly good media coverage among the tastemakers of the pop culture world and the pillars of the establishment.

Fine.  Not a single physical copy available for sale in the entire country.

If I was responsible for sales for the largest publisher in the English speaking world I’d be satisfied with zero copies available for purchase in the largest chain store in an entire territory, as well.  Who wouldn’t?

That’s how you support the people in marketing & publicity who have just busted their asses to get the word out via Bookslut, Fader Magazine, The NYT, Globe and Mail, the Millions etc… right?

By not having books physically available for sale.

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But whatever, as my friends working in the industry exclaimed at once, your expectations are too high for both parties.

“Why don’t you just go online and buy it?” They asked, as tho they’d suddenly become a chorus from Thucydides.

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Cold realism & harsh efficiency.  Those are the touchstones of book publishing.

Don’t bother us with your questions about a new book of literary criticism, we’ve got LOLCat Colleckshuns to sell.

Get over it, Cranbury, buy the fucking book online and quit having expectations based on this antiquated notion of brick and mortar supply chain fulfillment.

What do you think this is, 2004?

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So we’ve collectively recognized publicly and finally that brick and mortar stores are a tertiary concern.  Well down the list of checkable priorities.

Online ordering is how people shop – hell, I buy a lot of books thru Amazon – and that’s just the plain facts.

Fine, no problem.

We’ve seen Chapters/Indigo, Costco, Amazon, Wal-Mart and their kin eviscerate any semblance of competition from independent booksellers in this country and elsewhere over the past 15 years and completely change the book publishing landscape.

We’ve learned to accept that.

BookExpo Canada, like poor old Humber Humbert, died of coronary thrombosis in the spring of 2009.

It’s over, the game has changed.

OK, I get it.

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So why is there even an agrument against Amazon coming in to Canada and setting up a distribution centre?

Increased efficiency & lower prices.  That’s what we want, right?

Competition drives the price down and keeps everybody honest.  Hell, books might actually be available when customers want them.

Who needs a traditional supply chain?

And, really, why would we seek to protect Chapters/Indigo from competition?