Archive for the ‘Ch – ch – changes …’ Category

Moss Rock Review – February 2010

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Competition and consumer pressure bring good news for authors and our planet

Apple’s iPad breaks Amazon’s control over eBook sales — authors to get higher royalties, publishers will set pricing

In the week before Apple’s Steve Jobs introduced the long-awaited IPad tablet, Amazon knew its near-monopoly (90%) of eBook sales was in danger. Up to that point, with strong sales of its Kindle reading device, Amazon had bullied publishers, dictating sales terms. Amazon theoretically “bought” the eBook from the publisher at a “wholesale” price, and could sell for whatever price it wanted (maximum $9.99). Publishers who wanted a retail price of $29.99 or more for a new bestseller were angry. Authors were receiving far less money from the sale of an eBook, compared to a printed book.

In a pre-emptive move, Amazon announced it would double the publishers’ margin from 35% to 70%. But it remained fixated by that $9.99 eBook price point, which was key to Amazon’s plans for rapid sales growth of Kindles and eBooks in general.

Announcing the iPad, Job noted that publishers (“content providers”) would receive 70% and could set the price, though he hoped they would stay below $14.99. Publishers and Apple would operate under the “agency model” of selling, whereby the publisher owned and controlled the pricing of the product until it was bought by a consumer, at which point the vendor (Apple) was entitled to a 30% commission.

Emboldened by the new competition, US publisher Macmillan threatened to withhold all its new books from the Kindle until months after the release of the hardcover edition. Amazon retaliated by removing the “buy buttons” at its website on all Macmillan printed and eBooks. A day later, Amazon capitulated and announced it would adopt the agency model too, so Macmillan (and presumably other publishers) could set the retail price.

With authors’ agents circling, Macmillan announced it would boost its authors’ royalties to 25% of its revenue, which becomes roughly 17.5% of the retail price. Presto! Within a week, authors’ royalty percentages on eBooks had nearly doubled.

Grassroots Facebook campaign forces change at US bookstore chain

As the huge Borders bookstore chain tries to avoid bankruptcy, it has been closing nearly 200 Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores. Employees were appalled by orders to dispose of hundreds of thousands of books and other products. Instructions were to rip off the covers of the books to render them unusable.

“Why can’t these be donated to libraries and other charities?” they asked, but were refused permission to do so by the Borders Group head office.

So they formed a Facebook campaign (see www.DonateNotDumpster.org) to protest, and began inviting their friends to email to Borders executives. Thousands joined the protest, many writing on the Facebook page’s wall threatening to never shop at Borders stores again. Employees at other locations posted photos of dumpsters full of new stationery and coverless books. Organizers learned the overprinting of books, and subsequent destruction of unsold copies, was endemic to the book industry, and demanded Borders address this underlying problem as well. The book industry’s own analysis pegs overprinting at more than one billion books annually. This grassroots Facebook campaign was exposing an environmental scandal.

After articles in The Washington Post and other media, Borders scrambled to put a good face on an embarrassing situation. It would now recycle paper waste instead of sending it to landfills. It would donate unsold stationery and other products to Gifts in Kind International, including books that were not “returnable” for credit. [Returnable often means sending back only the cover, to get a credit.] Borders claimed that the “returnable” books problem was the publishers’ fault, but it would initiate a dialogue within the book industry about changing practices that cause so much waste of money and natural resources.

The Facebook campaign has now broadened its focus. It wants consumers to email to the heads of the major publishers and large bookstore chains, demanding an end to overprinting and the waste of unsold books. The initial responses from publishers have been to blame the retailers for being reluctant to adopt a “firm sales model.”

Yet one can hope the publishers will feel emboldened by their recent decisiveness around eBook sales models, and step up to fixing their one-billion-book public relations nightmare. In this era of grassroots Facebook campaigns, bad business practices are becoming harder to hide.

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Moss Rock Review – December 2009

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Hooray! The prospect of more royalties for authors — from use on the web

Certainly writing a book and publishing it has many intangible rewards: pride, satisfaction, perhaps a catharsis, to name a few. Yet most of us are still delighted when the tangible (“Show me the money!”) rewards roll in.

Musicians, composers and music producers have long enjoyed a huge advantage over creative folks who are writers and illustrators. This advantage is the existence of strong rights agencies who vigorously levy and enforce performance and usage fees — even a restaurant owner who plays the radio must pay an annual fee — and then divvy up the money to the content creators. Some of the money can be attributed to a specific song, while other money is apportioned out to all musicians.

According to a recent NY Times article, “GEMA, the main collecting society for German music copyright owners, raises more than E850 million, or $1.3 billion, a year.” The cool thing is the scale of this: perhaps $100 BILLION are being collected worldwide by the music rights agencies. Great for musicians.

By comparison, the rights agencies for written content have been comparatively anemic — my ballpark figure would be 10% as effective in terms of dollars raised and disbursed. In the USA, Agio Publishing House’s authors are included in Copyright.com (the US Copyright Clearance Centre). In Canada, our authors register with AccessCopyright.ca. Through reciprocal agreements, AccessCopyright receives money from (and collects money on behalf of) copyright licensing bodies in the UK, Australia and dozens of other countries. AccessCopyright gathers fees mainly from large corporations, government agencies and academic institutions, for specific copying (using an article as a chapter of a college “course pack”, for example) and for miscellaneous copying (such as people photocopying pages at their offices).

What’s needed is more robust enforcement, especially across the Internet, and new ways to reach out to other users. I have good news, offering authors reason to be optimistic:

  • Germany (according to the same NY Times article, Publisher Lays Out Plan to Save Newspapers by Eric PFanner, Dec 6, 2009) will be enacting new legislation to set up a rights monitoring and collection agency for newspaper content used on the web; this sets a good precedent for other (non-newspaper) written content;
  • Google has amassed full-page scans of millions of books and as part of the pending Google Books settlement, a new rights agency will be established for book content, so that for the first time ever, nearly all authors will be represented by one agency; and
  • micropayments (fractions of a cent in some cases) are now feasible because computer processing has become so inexpensive — we could envision, for example, someone happily paying a dollar to browse through 100 book pages while doing research (finding recipes or writing an essay), and Google also paying a portion of its ad revenues generated from searches of book pages to the new agency. Micropayments would enable easy legal usage by consumers, and make the alternatives (piracy or not using the material) less attractive.

We can be happy that authors’ rights to payment for viewing of their writing on the Web is now clearly “on the radar.” The tangible rewards for publishing may soon increase.

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Moss Rock Review – October 2009

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Authors are controlling book marketing now

The roles and responsibilities for marketing a new book have changed remarkably over the past decade. No longer can an aspiring author realistically hope to be courted by a publishing house, then be able to sit back and write a second book while that first manuscript is turned into a hardcover book, and promoted and publicized widely by the publisher. Nowadays, authors — whether it is Margaret Atwood or local independently-published writers — are taking matters into their own hands.

Margaret Atwood is blogging and twittering feverishly, and has organized her own international tour, a multimedia performance piece complete with a choir signing hymns she’s written. In some ways, one is reminded of the great literary events of the Great Depression, when famous authors such as Grey Owl (real name Archie Belaney) performed to sold-out theatres across North America and Europe. Decades earlier, Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) commanded huge audiences for his readings and humorous speeches. These fellows were the rock stars of their eras!

Closer to home and on a smaller scale, our neighbour Ken Roueche has gone door-to-door publicizing his A History of Fairfield [ISBN 1412060354] and handed out Fairfield street maps to tourists as another promotion. Ken’s efforts have paid off in enough sales to turn a profit on the venture. Fellow Fairfieldite Sid Tafler gives lectures to spread the word about his memoir, Us and Them: A Memoir of Tribes and Tribulations [0-9781017-0-7].

Another Victoria author who isn’t shy about marketing is motivational trainer Michael J. Losier, whose The Law of Attraction [ISBN 978-0-973224-00-9] has enjoyed massive sales. Michael presents to audiences around the world, often training 800 people at once, and then selling as many copies of his book. He conducted 110 seminars during 2006! This marketing tsunami attracted appearances on The Oprah Show and sales of over 300,000 copies in four years.

Does all this mean that YOU have to become a relentless showman if you want to get that manuscript into print? Certainly not. Yet you will have to be involved in marketing to some extent if you want to have your book in circulation. I recommend a reality check — a marketing plan that suits your aspirations, personality and budget.

Start with a frank examination of your motives. Why have you written and for whom? If your impetus is to entertain and educate, you can start with niche promotions and local publicity, then expand as you gain confidence, all with minimal cost investment and good chances of building a steady stream of sales.

For example, Sidney author Caroline Whitehead is giving talks at seniors centres and service club gatherings, describing her childhood at a Catholic orphanage in the County of Kent during the 1920s and 1930s. The Peninsula News recently ran a feature article on Caroline’s fascinating book, Surviving the Shadows [ISBN 978-1-897435-33-5].

As this book reveals, Caroline discovered she wasn’t really an orphan, and spent decades tracking down her parents. “Most would prefer to put it at the back of one’s mind, rather than acknowledge the stigma of being raised in an orphanage and being denied a birthright,” says the author. “But, for the sake of social history, these stories must be told.”

Having her book available on Amazon.com and indexed at Google means alumni from Caroline’s orphanage can learn of this exposé’s existence, and people around the world can access her story. As eBook reading devices become commonplace, even more people will be able to learn about that often-cruel era.

The good news for Fairfield writers is that you can have your book published (by helping underwrite the costs), and you only have to do whatever promoting is logical and feels comfortable for you.

 

Bio: Bruce Batchelor is an author and book publisher, at Agio Publishing House, 151 Howe Street in Fairfield. Agio Publishing (www.agiopublishing.com) works with authors in a collaborative model, with author and publisher sharing responsibilities and costs on new books. His how-to guide, Book Marketing DeMystified [ISBN 978-1-897435-00-7] is available at Sorensen’s Books.

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Moss Rock Review column – June 2009

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

This is the first regular bimonthly (6x per year) column I wrote for Sue Woods’ Moss Rock Review, back in June of 2009. Sue named the column Book Scene.

These are great times for book lovers — there are so many wonderful new books to read [over 560,000 new titles in 2008!], and a growing number of ways to buy and read those stories [in print, on a Kindle, iPod, cell phone or your computer screen].

Unfortunately book publishers are not faring so well these days. Sales of printed books are falling, while costs rise. Sales of electronic books are not enough to offset declining printed book sales. This is bad news for prospective authors, for sure! Fairfield is teeming with boomers anxious to “be published” and the likelihood of any unproven writer landing a contract with a publisher is diminishing rapidly.

Fortunately the do-it-yourself route has become simpler and less expensive, with print-on-demand production and semi-retired industry professionals offering top-notch help in editing, designing, publishing and marketing. What’s the cost to underwrite publishing of your opus? Less than the price of a second-hand car. It all boils down to what importance one places on creating a proper legacy for book lovers.

Like car makers, book publishers would be in better shape financially if they changed their broken business model. Car companies have been making the wrong products; Canadian publishers have been creating wonderful products but selling them using a bizarre sales practice which I calculate is costing them a whopping $330 million per year. That was not a typo. Yes, $330,000,000 is available in a form of do-it-yourself industry bailout, simply by changing a wasteful practice of over-hyping, then overprinting, and selling books to bookstores on consignment. Few consumers realize it, but all those new books on the shelves of your favourite bookstores will be returned to the publishers after 90 days if they don’t sell. It is a disgraceful waste of money, everyone’s time and enormous quantities of natural resources. To learn more, go to www.bookindustrybailout.ca.

Book review by Beverly Paterson
Journey to the Inner Circle, and Beyond: One Man’s Search for his True Self by Blaise Eagleheart. ISBN 978-1-897435-32-8. Available at Russell Books, or online through Amazon and Indigo

Journey to the Inner Circle is a compelling, mid-1980s ‘stream of consciousness’ journal drawing the reader into a warrior’s quest for his own truth. It is a true story, filled with remarkable experiences both real and illusionary — from walking on coals, to shape-shifting into the form of a cougar, and much more. There are deeply insightful dialogues with a colourful array of inner teachers.

Journey to the Inner Circle is a powerfully positive book, offering both a challenge and an opportunity. It awakens in the reader the possibility that he already has within him the guidance needed to consciously create the life he chooses to live.

Born and raised in the Victoria area, Blaise Eagleheart played and coached rugby at club, Island and Provincial levels, using unorthodox training methods, before immersing himself in the martial art of Chien Lung, Eastern healing arts and other energy-based disciplines. He then opened a dojo with his Teacher, where he taught biomechanics of movement and martial art classes for children and adults. Blaise now runs Natural Movement Centre (www.naturalmovementcentre.com) in Victoria, teaching about holistic integration of the physical, emotional and mental bodies to awaken the creative consciousness for optimal health and physical performance.

Blaise can be reached at Blaise@naturalmovementcentre.com for seminars, motivational speaking and instructional materials. His second and third books are now in production for fall release.

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Seth Godin on CBC Spark program – right and wrong

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Seth Godin, marketer extraordinaire, was just interviewed on CBC Radio’s program Spark by host Nora Young. Here’s the link to the uncut interview. http://podcast.cbc.ca/spark/plus-spark_20110504_sethgodindominoproject.mp3

Seth rolled off a steady stream of ideas and observations. He is very convincing — and right about the huge changes happening in publishing. Still, it is daunting to think about needing to create a 15,000-person “tribe” so you can sell a “book” (or “content”), and sad to witness the decline of literary merit as at least part of the basis for publishing success.

Scale — and the compounding effect — make Seth’s theories rather elitist even though he no doubt feels his approach is very egalitarian. What’s happening is there is a switch in elites. No longer will it be the top editors and publishers in the 6 largest NY publishing firms calling most of the shots. Instead it will be the 100 or 200 most popular expert/blogger/speaker/tweeter/social media elite/self-promoters. Seth advocates individual authors establish their own “tribe” of social media followers to have a “platform” for selling your ebooks and other content through Amazon Kindle, print-on-demand and Apple’s iBookstore. Seth says his Domino Project has 15,000 followers.

However, you can’t have all 15,000 people in Seth’s “tribe” of followers (most of whom likely have hopes of selling stuff themselves) ALL having 15,000 followers themselves, and so on. If that scenario happened, pretty soon everyone in the entire world would be devoting 24-hours a day to being influenced by and influencing others. What works for Seth can’t be scaled up infinitely… unfortunately for those of us who were — and still are — hoping for a free ticket onto the gravy train.

Seth talked about authors making a fortune being a relatively recent phenomenon (I think he said it began in the 1950s). I don’t know any basis for that idea. Being an author was VERY lucrative (for a few) ever since Gutenberg’s time.

thanks, cheers,
Bruce

Intervening to stop addictive behavior in book publishing and retailing

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Okay, what I’m going to be writing here is going to upset a few people. Yet it needs to be discussed.

Some people need to be subjected to an intervention for their addiction. Their addiction is tenacious, nasty and harms not only themselves and their businesses, but also the entire planet. Let’s be clear and blunt about this: Book publishers are addicted to providing books to retailers on a “returnable” basis (essentially on consignment). And retailers are addicted to those sales terms. They are in denial about this. “We’re trying to cut down.” “It is really not as bad as people say.” “It is not my fault. Everyone else does it.” “One more can’t hurt, eh?”

Two years ago, the Green Press Initiative released a treatise urging a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the book industry (including paper-making and printing). You can download the document here: http://www.greenpressinitiative.org/treatise/treatiseIndex.htm

Within the Treatise itself is one section:
Recycling and Reducing Consumption
• Implementing strategies which will foster improved efficiency and continued reductions in paper consumption – including reduced basis weights, the minimization of returns and improved recycling
.

I believe that it is counter-productive to advocate “the minimization of returns” as this only perpetuates the dangerous myth that selling on a returnable basis is necessary within the industry. Selling on a returnable basis leads to over-ordering and over-printing. That is a fact. The scale of the problem is also a fact: over one billion extra books are printed unnecessarily every year. Publishers and retailers have proven over the past eight decades that they are not able to be responsible in their behavior around selling on a returnable basis. It is a sick, sick addiction, and they are in denial. Providing books on “returnable” terms is the crack cocaine of the book industry.

I believe that advocating a “minimization of returns” is like saying, “let’s minimize violence against women/children/the environment/etc.” Maybe only raping on Saturday nights? Would you say to an alcoholic that they should “minimize drunk driving”? Would you tell a junkie to minimize getting high and robbing corner stores? The goal must be to STOP harmful, wasteful, unnecessary, addictive practices, not to condone them.

If the practice of returns is eliminated altogether (switching to the firm sales terms used by almost every other industry), the goal of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 could be reached in months, not decades.

As we have seen with the recent, almost-overnight switch across the industry to selling eBooks on an “agency model,” the book industry could change its sales terms for printed books quickly. But only IF there is a will to change. That will happen only IF people end their denial about their addiction.

Too bad that treatise was written by addicts. I believe their intent was noble and grand; too bad they couldn’t see beyond their own condition toward a healthier future.

What form will the intervention take? Perhaps it will be consumers threatening a boycott.

thanks, cheers, Bruce

First thoughts about Apple’s iPad – what this means to publishers and authors

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Author Val Pattee emailed me from Mexico, asking what I thought about the newly announced iPad. That got me thinking… I guess I am a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more innovation – the iPad seems mostly like a bigger iPhone or iPod Touch. I was hoping for more “magic” – something to amaze me. Perhaps some game-changing features will become apparent over the coming year.

One benefit to the book industry is that the iPad with its iBook store will break Amazon’s near-monopoly position on eBook sales. Amazon has already backed down from its previous position of insisting on keeping 65% of the retail price as its cut — earlier this week Amazon announced it would only keep 30%, which is what Apple is doing. So, rather suddenly, publishers are getting twice the margin! Publishers will now get 70% instead of 35%. That has to be good for authors too.

Also, Apple has agreed to a maximum price of $14.99 for new bestsellers. (Amazon was insisting on $9.99 maximum.) If a publisher is getting 70% of $14.99, that is $10.50. That is likely much more than the publisher would clear on a new hardcover edition retailing at $30. If the publisher is getting the same or larger profit by selling online – and none of the risk of returns and no up-front investment for offset printing – the economic outlook for the big publishers is suddenly looking much rosier.

The big publishers will now be happier to throw their full support behind eBook. That, in turn, will de-emphasize printed book sales. This could accelerate the collapse of the bookstore channel as we know it. Logically there will be more reason to end the practice of selling on consignment (returns).

The other advantage of the iPad is that it can display PDF format. At Steve Job’s launch of the iPad, there was no mention of selling PDF formatted books at the iBook store, only of selling ePUB format (which is essentially HTML), but an App will surely appear quickly to allow the purchase of books in PDF format. The advantage of PDF is that the book’s designer gets to create and lock in a particular look. By contrast, with ePUB, the book appears different to each user, depending on what default type font and size that user has in the iPad’s settings. The ePUB format might be fine for reading novels, but it is poor if you are wanting to read a how-to book with diagrams or admire photo arrangements and other illustrations.

Strangely missing from the announcement is whether the iPad will work with FLASH formatted files. FLASH is how many websites show videos. For example, YouTube shows videos in FLASH. FLASH is currently used at some websites (Amazon Search Inside, Google Book Search and many others) to display PDF formatted books in a manner that doesn’t allow the viewer to copy the document. Thus FLASH helps minimize unauthorized copying and piracy of books. Likely this question will be clarified over the next few days.

People have asked about how to “get my book into the iBook store.” I’m counting on Smashwords.com to do that for us. We send out book files to Smashwords and they re-process the file into various formats, including ePUB, and distribute to a long list of eBook retailers. Smashwords will likely be at the front of the line for setting up accounts in the iBook store. The drawback is that we must take apart our beautifully formatted book files (in PDF) to create a somewhat clunky Word doc file version, which Smashwords then converts to many formats. The end results are not at all elegant, but satisfactory for novels and other text-intensive books. It will be nice to see our books selling at the iBook store soon, and we’ll be receiving that now-much-higher publisher’s margin.

thanks, cheers,
Bruce

Facebook group embarrasses Borders (US) into starting “industry-wide dialog” about ending returns

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Hey, did you know that a Facebook group www.donatenotdumpster.org started by some upset Waldenbooks employees may have started the ball rolling to end publishers providing books to bookstores on a returnable basis? This could be HUGE: a paradigm shift in publishing.

The group was started to protest the dumpstering of unsold books as Borders Group begins shutting down its Waldenbooks stores. “Why not donate them to libraries and charities?” they ask.

Over 2,000 people were signing on per day as the word spread virally. Many posted messages that they will boycott Borders if it doesn’t donate the books.

Last week, when Borders execs responded by saying it wasn’t their fault because everyone does it (destroying books, especially mass market books), that didn’t appease the group members who started questioning why there is such a wasteful system in the book industry. The organizers did some research and found my website called www.BookIndustryBailout.ca where I present an analysis that billions of dollars are wasted every year because of returns – so they began emphasizing ending returns across the industry as a goal. Meanwhile, more consumers are joining the Facebook group and signing online petitions.

On Saturday, the Washington Post highlighted the Facebook group in an article titled “Consumer complaints have companies rethinking how to dispose of unsold inventory,” by Ylan Q. Mui.

Borders execs seem to be squirming under this heat. One of them sent out a mass email (damage control on a Sunday at 11:05 am!) to people who had emailed Borders’ head office with protest notes. Her email says:

Thank you for contacting Borders. We take seriously the many suggestions we
have received regarding product donations.

  1. We have a new relationship with Gifts In Kind International and all unsold items that we cannot return to publishers will be donated to local charities (you can read the news release here:
    http://www.borders.com/online/store/BGIView_irnewsreleases — click on the “Other Borders News” right below the Keyword Search box).
  2. We will have all of our stores recycle product instead of disposing of it.
  3. We have started a dialog within the publishing industry to address industry wide practices – which all book retailers practice, not just Borders – that could possibly be changed with positive impacts on communities and the environment.

Sincerely, Mary Davis, Borders Group

It is part #3 that could be huge. I’m optimistic. How about spreading this news? If more consumers and people within the industry added their weight to the pressure, that might be incredibly helpful. At minimum, indie publishers might want to be included in the “dialog within the industry.”

Thanks for spreading the word,
cheers, Bruce

Duthie Books in Vancouver latest victim of bad business model

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Canadian newspapers are reporting the scheduled closing of Duthie Books in Vancouver. As many comments at the Vancouver Sun newspaper website have pointed out, there was a significant lack of business sense at Duthie Books. Yet we needn’t single this store out: the entire book publishing sector is operating on a broken business model. McNally Robinson just closed two of its four stores.

Unlike other retailers who buy at about 50% off retail price, bookstore owners buy at only 40% off. How can they expect to be profitable? Why don’t the store owners read some of those business how-to books they stock?

The rationale for this poor margin is because the books are acquired from publishers on a “returnable” basis (i.e. on consignment). So bookstore managers merrily overstock and pay for shipping both ways on stock they don’t immediately sell. Instead of getting their stock at a better margin, and marking it down if it doesn’t sell at full price, they are stuck to this bizarre returnable practice like deer caught in the headlights.

This antiquated process is bankrupting not only booksellers, but distributors and publishers, too. Meanwhile the Canadian and provincial governments are handing over tens of millions of dollars annually to subsidize losses by incompetent executives.

It isn’t Kindle that is the biggest threat to bookstores, it is the reluctance to demand a reasonable business arrangement from publishers. The toll this inefficiency is costing the Canadian book industry? Over $300 Million each year. Check out the analysis at www.BookIndustryBailout.ca

thanks!

McNally Robinson in receivership is more proof of broken business model

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Bookseller McNally Robinson is in the news today for entering bankruptcy protection, with plans to close two of its stores (Toronto and Winnipeg-Polo Park) while maintaining its Winnipeg-Grant Park and Saskatoon stores. Book publishers will likely lose millions in the receivership settlement. Newspaper columnists are citing ebook and internet sales as major factors in MR’s problems.

Overlooked by most analysts is the systemic problem haunting the bookselling sector: retailers pay too much for the product. Retailers in other sectors generally buy at 50% of retail. Yet most booksellers buy at 60% of retail. Hard to be profitable when you leave that much margin on the table. It is a broken business model that was bound to catch up when times got tougher. (Some of the big box stores, Indigo-Chapters and Amazon do pay less than the independent retailers — that explains in part why they can sell at discounts.)

Why do booksellers pay so much? The rationale within the publishing world is because the books are bought by the retailer on a “returnable basis” (i.e. unsold copies can be shipped back to a distributor for an exchange credit or refund). In essence, books are sold to retailers on consignment, even though most titles have a clear ‘shelf-life’ when they can be sold at full-price.

Overall, this practice of selling on consignment and at poor margins is costing the Canadian book industry (publishers and retailers) over $300 MILLION every year in inefficiency. [This is also an environmental nightmare with about half of all the books printed ending up unsold.] By comparison, eBook sales likely haven’t amounted to $3 million this year in Canada. Inefficiency within the industry is 100 times more important than ebooks.

It is so sad that McNally Robinson is closing stores instead of demanding a better and more sane arrangement with publishers. And very sad that Canadian publishers will be stuck with unpaid invoices, when they could have improved their own profitability by ending consignment sales. And sad too for the Canadian taxpayers who will likely be coughing up millions to prop up Canadian publishers (again) when those publishers and retailers really need a slap up the side of the head to fix their basic business practices.

- Bruce Batchelor, publisher
Agio Publishing House, Victoria, BC, Canada