"Why don't publishers open their own retail outlets?"
A decade ago the Doubleday Bookstore still resided on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan (where, I'm told, William Faulkner worked briefly circa 1921); and my understanding is that there were other Doubleday Bookstores scattered across the country. These did not, however, sell only Doubleday books. I've no idea to what degree the publisher oversaw, or was involved in, the bookstore operations, nor at what stage it was decided to shut them down. Nor do I know what led to the closing of the McGraw Hill bookstore on Sixth Avenue in 2002; nor the small store Harper & Row had in its lobby for many years. But not so very long ago Manhattan was dotted with booksellers bearing the colors of one publisher or another.
At the present time I'm aware of no publishers who serve also as their own principal retailer. It's interesting to note, though, that as the country's largest retailer of books (Barnes & Noble) is blurring the lines by publishing more and more books under its own imprint each year (think they get favored placement and a discount on front-of store promotion rates?), the publishing industry seems to be gearing up to return the favor by offering consumers the option of buying direct. This option has always existed--individuals are always free to call a publisher's customer service department and order a copy of a particular book. But what we're certain to see going forward is a less passive approach--publishers actually reaching out to consumers in a variety of ways (online, initially).
My understanding is that W.W. Norton, the last of the "major" independent publishers, was the first to actively pursue this line of direct-selling; in the last few months we've heard of similar initiatives from Bertelsmann and HarperCollins.
It'll be interesting to see whether B&N has the gumption to get up on its high horse about how this sort of "direct to consumer" selling represents a conflict of interest, given its own most recent expansionist proclivities. And won't it be ironic if B&N, in seeking to protect its market share from publishers' direct-selling initiatives, winds up aligned, this time, on the same side of the table as the Independent Booksellers whose ranks they've had such a deleterious effect on?
"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."
PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]
"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."
PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]
"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."
- Return of the Returns
- Say You Want A Revolution? End the Returns "Subsi...
- BUY THIS BOOK! A Guided Tour of an Approach to Ma...
- The Curse of the Cardigan: Some Thoughts on Editor...
- A Dumb A** Notion
- Publishing 101: Infantilization & You, Plus Some ...
- Simon Says: Don't Say "Too Many Books"
- "Too Many Books": Shots Across the Bow, Vol. IV
- Apocrypha: the Final (or First?) Word on the Craft...
- SHOTS ACROSS THE BOW
- Bowshots, Pt. 2: Beyond 'A New Yorker's Map of th...
- Across the Bow, Pt.1: RETAIL
- Bowshots, Pt. 3: Costco Redux
- "Publish" as a Verb: Books on the Half-Shell, Par...
- The Half-Life of Shelf-Life
- Stop the presses! Labor unrest threatens blogosphe...
- ▼ February (16)