Monday, August 14, 2006

Reason to be cheerful?

Finally, a reason to be cheerful if you're an Australian independent bookseller ... perhaps. According to The Bookseller, 79 independent booksellers have left the UK Booksellers Association in the past year, the majority due to closure. The journal concludes that if indie stores close at the same rate in future, the independent bookseller will be extinct in Britain in 15 years’ time. In Australia, if one is willing to believe the BookScan figures, independents’ market share has actually increased in the past 12 months, albeit only slightly. Thus, if we apply the Bookseller’s impeccable logic to the situation here, Australia’s clearly endangered chain booksellers and DDS's will all be out of business in about ... 150 years.


Perhaps Rick Warren like to contact Modern Times bookshop in San Francisco. The struggling Californian bookseller has come up with an interesting ruse to raise cash. It’s invited customers to consider sponsoring sections of its bookstore, in return for a plaque (as in ‘This wine section generously sponsored by Gladys Bembo’). While the move smacks a little of desperation, the shop has an additional and ingenious lure: due to its relationship with a nearby college, all contributions have charitable status. If only our own taxman was so understanding.

Purpose-driven royalties

‘I don’t think it’s sin to be rich, it’s a sin to die rich,’ The Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren is quoted as telling the Sydney Morning Herald (or the Smage, as it’s now called by media insiders due to the uncanny similarity between SMH stories and those of its Melbourne sister paper, the Age). The US pastor, who was in Australia last month attending the annual Hillsong Christian conference, apparently gives away 90% of the royalties he earns from his books yet still manages to be a millionaire.

Penguin migration

Returns are an expensive business for everyone but surely the bar has now been raised to record levels with the announcement that after 30 June all Penguin and Pearson Ed’s New Zealand returns were to be delivered to DHL in Auckland. Now that the Pearson-owned Book Distributors New Zealand has closed, presumably these returns are being airfreighted to United Book Distributors in Melbourne. Even if it’s booked on Jetstar, that’s a very expensive holiday to send a book on … especially if it was despatched from Melbourne in the first place. You can’t fault Penguin for running a first class service, but if ever there was an argument for firm sale, then surely sending an unsold book on a 5244-kilometre round trip must be it.

Expensive editors?

On a related matter, I note ‘$100,000 worth of editing and legal scrutiny’ has been bandied around in the media as the unrecouped costs ABC Books incurred on the book prior to being forced to let it go. My editor friends will no doubt be amusing themselves pondering what huge proportion of this amount went on the editing.


All credit to MUP’s ever-alert Louise Adler for being the first publisher to contact Chris Masters on the day the ABC announced it wasn’t going to publish his book on Alan Jones. I’m sure he appreciated the 11pm call. But there was a sense that normal order was being restored when Allen & Unwin finally announced they had won the race to sign him up, thereby ensuring that stock of Jonestown will arrive in the same carton as it would have done had the ABC published it (my sympathies, Stuart). Makes you wonder if A&U made a joint bid with distributor ADS to stump up the rumoured $250,000 advance.