By Darren E Laws
Everyone likes a bargain and it is human nature not to want to pay more for something than is necessary. Money after all is hard to come by. But at what point do we stop to look at the impact our shopping habits is having on our local economy. Arguments rage about the loss of specialist and local stores as supermarkets continue to encroach on a number of retail sectors. The ironic thing is that supermarkets sell this argument on the basis of broadening our choice. Yes, they are broadening our choice in a supermarket context but as small stores close through the impact of losing sales to the likes of Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys and Morrisons among others, we have to begin to question the social consequences as well as the blow to the local economy.
Book sales are a great example of how supermarkets are decimating specialist retail trade. A quick trip down the aisles will reveal paperbacks as low as £1.99 and sometimes less. Great for the consumer who will never want to set foot in a bookstore but bad news for real book lovers. Try purchasing anything other than a ‘popular’ title in a supermarket and then think about the consequences of having little or no alternative as genuine bookstores close.
Publishers currently have their pants in a twist over the Internet, digital content and eBooks but it appears they are quite happy to let supermarkets ride rough-shod over paper sales. The restriction on choice in a supermarket is appalling and will never match that of a decent bookstore even a chain bookstore. I for one do not wish to see any of our books in a supermarket at a give-away price. I know what the margins are and believe me they are slim especially when you take the ancillary costs of marketing, promoting, PR and any other supporting mechanisms out of the bottom line. The major publishers might be able to afford to prostitute their authors but the real price is that they are killing the industry. This all comes back to the old business model adopted by the major players. Print tens of thousands of books of each title and when they don’t sell, give them away to supermarkets and remainder outlets at knock-down prices. How much longer can the industry afford to do this? The major publishers are acting like parasites prepared to eat their own bodies when there is no longer any flesh on the carcass.
It’s crazy when you listen to the top publishers bleating over the state of industry, it would appear they don’t even know they are responsible.