Friday, June 10, 2005

Where I didn't go last weekend

Last weekend, we got out of town. Since I'm no longer a bookseller, I didn't go to Book Expo America. It's the country's largest trade show for the publishing industry. It looks like I didn't miss much. There are the usual duelling headlines.

The show. How was this year's show?

giant hot dog attacks New York

Part of the glamor I missed was this giant hot dog (via). It's obviously a New York dog, for Chicago hot dogs are much better-dressed.

The industry. How is the book bidness doing?

Returns. Unlike most products, books are sold returnably to stores: Bookstores can return unsold books to publishers for credit. The system started during the Depression. Too many stores sharply curtailed orders because they hadn't sold their old stock and couldn't afford newer stock, so publishers began allowing returns of unsold books in order to unclog the distribution pipeline. After WWII, returnability became standard. But the returns ratio kept growing. Now, 34% of adult harcovers are returned. The consensus seems to be that returns are the worst possible system, except for all the others.

Independent bookstores have had a bad decade or three. Their decline may have halted.

One bad benchmark: All independent bookstores, combined, sell less than Amazon.

The future.

The industry hasn't addressed the problem of authorgeddon, when there will be more people writing books than reading them. (It only seems like that now.)


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