Friday, February 09, 2007

Shantaram sham

Would the publisher who is going to re-publish the bestseller Shantaram please stand up? The paperback edition of the novel is no longer available from its original publisher, Scribe, due to labyrinthine legal issues, but I hear it may still emanate from the same warehouse. However, no-one yet seems to be willing to go on the record and admit they are Gregory David Roberts’ new publisher. Why, I wonder.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Silence?

The publication date and recommend retail price of the new (and last - phew!) Harry Potter book was announced to the trade on 1 February, but most Australian booksellers and Potter fans would have read about it on 2 February. I thought it might be interesting to look at how booksellers' websites had made use of the information one week later, on 9 February. With a little help from my young nephew, I had a quick 'surf' to find out. Dymocks was inviting customers to register by email to place pre-orders but had no price, A&R's website had the date and was directing customers to pre-order from their local A&R store again with no price, while Borders' site had the date but no price and was asking people to sign up for their 'owl post' news update. Readings and Mary Ryan had the pub date but not the price, while Sydney's Better Dead Than Read had the date and price. None of these three were encouraging orders. Surprisingly, online bookseller Booktopia had no information on the book at all, nor did any of the discount or department store websites (less surprising). So was anyone selling the book? Well, yes. You could order at $44.96 on Boomerang Books's site while those sites powered by Seek Books were selling at full price, as was Collins' website and that of the book's Australian distributor, Allen & Unwin. Australia's favourite bookselling website was taking orders of the US edition at US$18.89 ($24.18) + US$11.98 ($15.35) postage, making its $39.53 total the best deal on the web after week one. There's a long way to go, of course. Still, the variety of messages directed to the consumer is quite fascinating, given that I expect 99% of Potter fans now know the date and price for themselves.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hachette gives Europe to UK

The latest salvo has been fired in the territorial battle between the US and UK over who gets to sell their books in Europe (one would have thought the Europeans may wish to choose but surprisingly no-one seems to be asking them). In an act vividly described by one irate European distributor as 'an unheard of act of self-castration,' global behemoth Hachette has decided that its UK subsidiary will supply European booksellers, which means Hachette's US books must be supplied out of the UK. Interestingly, HarperCollins' Brian Murray (whom many readers will recall used to head HC's Australian operation) is taking the contrary view. 'When HarperCollins controls world rights and there are US and UK editions available, we offer both editions to readers in the EU,' he told Publishers Weekly, 'because we believe it is in the best interest of our authors and our customers to do so.' Elementary logic would suggest Hachette and HC can't both be right. There's a certain irony about all this, isn't there? The very market forces that have driven the internationalisation of the book trade and the rise of the global giants is tugging at the fabric of our industry's rather cosy territorial copyright arrangements. It will be interesting to see how long we can continue to have our cake and eat it too. Meanwhile, across the Tasman in the 'open market' of New Zealand, the sky has not fallen in. It seems, miraculously, that booksellers base their decisions on who they buy from based on service, price, product quality and range rather than what where the supplier's warehouse is. Why would anyone see value in denying them that right?