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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
Progress: 208/256 pages

From print to shop

Books are a funny old game. Deep in my heart somewhere, I'm a bit of a romantic. Don't get me wrong, I've got a pragmatic shell but I do love a little bit of that cosy warm feeling that you get when you do certain things.

Like go in to a book shop and buy that book you wanted.

I believed, very wrongly, that you could just go in to a book shop with the ISBN of the book you wanted, and they'd be able to order it. Apparently, I was wrong.

Firstly, in the UK, the publisher puts the book on the Nielsen service.

When you do a search on a book shop's web site, it's actually pulling information from the Nielsen service. The web site will tell you that either it's in stock, or it isn't and has to be ordered.

Now ... when you push that button, a few things happen in the background. To begin with, that might actually be the first time that the book you've ordered has appeared on the book shop's radar officially. Once that happens, the book shops buyers have to contact the publisher and negotiate terms. If they're successful, then the book will be processed on the book shop's own internal systems and some are printed and warehoused.

If not, then your web order is refused and you're refunded. I'm told that this is a rare occurrence.

You have to remember that the shop buyers themselves may then determine to simply not bother with the book in the first place and reject it. They're not actually under obligation to stock anything.

Before you start wondering what this means for indie publishers and the small press, it does seem like some shops have regional and community teams that will feature local authors; this isn't a total David v Goliath here. However, it does carry some risks. For example, someone like me with a BDSM book that's based on reality, being sold in the Brighton area might not get much of an audience because a portion of the local population have already got a good feel for the reality of BDSM thank you very much!

From the book shops I've visited, however, with a different hat on, I can see a concerning decline. Staff shortages, reductions in the ranges of books on offer and other such things do seem to be putting some high street shops under pressure. The man behind the counter of one of them apologised as he recounted the problems their small branch was facing; but I told him I understood where he was coming from.

I wonder how long it will be before the romance of buying a book is reduced to a package through the door.