Monday, July 30, 2007

A Funny Business

Joe Nocera in the weekend edition of the International Herald Tribune writes about the price wars which raged in the US over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Article is behind subscription.) He also gives an intriguing glimpse into the workings of the industry ... all of this relevant now that the debacle of last weekend has opened our eyes a bit . (Is this a business that you would be tempted to go into?)
It's a funny business this book business, and making little or no money on a brand as powerful as Harry Potter is only part of it. Name another industry where the manufacturer agrees to take back unsold merchandise ...

And what other business can you think of where sales are essentially flat, but the manufacturers keep churning out increasing volumes of product? But that's what the book industry does. In 1980 it produced 42,400 new titles - compared with 141,700 in 2001 and 168,000 in 2005.

Each of these practices has a certain screwball logic. Because most books are written by unknowns, book publishers still feel, on some unspoken level, that the returns policy helps them persuade stores to stock a new author.

The reason so many more books are being published is that the big publishers are owned by conglomerates who want to see increased revenue and profit from their book divisions. And since publishers have little or no idea which books will succeed ... they react by ever more books hoping to increase their odds of hitting the jackpot ... The majority of books, by the way, are commercial flops.

Discounting also has its own logic ... You don't see other industries losing money on a best-selling brand in order to get other people to buy the merchandise.*
*My emphasis.

1 comment:

Greenbottle said...

that's good for people like me who are the readers , I say.

...a couple of yrs back i stumbled into a good bookstore owned by an irish guy near the tapae gate chiang mai and he mentioned that all those books with black marker pen mark on the face opposite of the spine, that means that book is marked to be killed , shambo. and (the book)is not meant to be returned back to bookshop and resold.

well, we get a lot of these kind of marked books in our warehouse sales, and i'm not complaining. better to be recycled this way than turning salman rsuhdie into toilet papers...but come to think of it, don't exactly mind using toilet paper recycled from rusdhie's or harry potter books....