Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Americanisation of the UK continues. There has been much talk in recent weeks of ‘Super Thursday’ because of the number of high-profile Christmas titles being published on Thursday, 2 October. I think this idea could be taken further. Why don’t the big titles each have their own rally, maybe in a football stadium, with balloons and cheerleaders, and tickertapes bearing the details of each retailer’s subscription falling from the sky? The titles in question could arrive by helicopter, or gently float to the stage by parachute. You could have the Nigella Lawson Nigella Christmas (Chatto) convention, the Jeremy Clarkson For Crying Out Loud (Michael Joseph) caucus, the Dawn French Dear Fatty (Century) rally…

But, to be serious for a minute, the glut of titles due on this date highlights a problem that continues to annoy sectors of the UK book trade. Booksellers frequently complain that the year is unbalanced, that too many titles are released for the Christmas market, leaving the shops with fewer lead titles to attract customers at other times of the year.

What we may see this Christmas is an increase in a battle among the major chains and supermarkets for the lead titles, with the independent sector choosing to ignore them, focusing on the so-called second string titles and making those their own. It’s as if we have the slow arrival of a two-tier book trade – and it’s easy to see why this happens. Why bother selling Nigella when the supermarkets and Amazon and WHSmith are knocking it out at a price cheaper than your wholesaler charges you? To keep to the US theme - it’s enough to lead to a War of Independents.

No comments: