What happens if you’re in a one bookshop town?
Well, next week, hundreds of titles will become unavailable to you, including this year’s Miles Franklin winning book, Carpentaria by Alexis Wright!
Regular PWF readers would be familiar with the big national book chain’s tactics as it’s commonplace for supermarkets to charge local producers for shelf space.
The Australian Publishers Association’s Marie McCaskill sees the connection with the supermarket problem, telling the ABC:
“The publishers are somewhat in shock to say the least. So for them it’s a surprise. For me it isn’t because I come out of a previous work employment where we had to deal with supermarkets. And this is a classic supermarket tactic: if you want shelf space you pay for the privilege, and you pay up front.”
By the way, big publishers like Penguin and Random House didn’t receive the letters!
To Michael Rakusin, director of Tower Books, the publisher of Carpentaria, the letter from Angus & Robertson was outrageous.
“It arrived on my table on Friday afternoon, and it said, very simply, ‘The amount of profit we make out of Tower Books has not been sufficient to justify keeping your books on our shelves. Here is an invoice for just slightly shy of $20,000. Please pay it by the 17th of August. If you don’t pay it, we will have no choice but to de-register you as an authorised supplier.’ In other words, we won’t buy your books anymore.”
And he won’t be dealing with Angus & Robertson again.
“We absolutely will not, we’ve decided that we will no longer supply them. They can keep their money, we’ll keep our books.”
“It will hurt not only their hip pocket, but the ability of readers who want to read their books.”
“Angus and Robertson are truly national. They have stores in many, many small country places where there are no other bookstores.”
But surely there’s some positives to come out of all this.
The Booksellers Association’s Fiona Stager thinks there’s now a gap that independents and good chains to jump into and we would agree.
This could be a time when smaller, locally owned independents can AFFIRM their independence.
A bit of lateral thinking and all of a sudden, this could be a real opportunity for the local bookshop.
Heard an interesting interview with an obscure Australian author on Radio National?
Talk about it in the store because most likely the Angus & Robertson down the road won’t be stocking the book.
As Tom O’Toole says – quoted earlier this week on PWF:
“Little things are the only things in customer service. The difference between extra ordinary and ordinary is that little bit extra. That’s why Tom put in tables and chairs and public toilets and why on Sundays in fine weather, he has a band playing on the balcony. It’s that little bit extra that keeps his customers coming back.”
Also note that Angus & Robertson are owned by “buyout firm” Pacific Equity Partners, a company in the news for plenty other reasons.
AND Angus & Robertson are bidding against Dymocks and others for control of US run book chain, Borders.
There’s a little more to ponder for the future of publishing in Australia…..