Thursday, November 19, 2009

A New Old Model for Small Publishers

In these harsh current times, many small publishers are struggling to stay afloat. Although these times may seem difficult they also often force people to think widely to try and find a way to survive.

I read this article at The Fiction Desk blog. The author suggests that looking back in time might help small publishers find a way to stay in business. According to the article, in 18th century London it was common for bookshops to also be publishers. There are some publishers who have retail stores on their publishing premises, but normally they only to sell their own titles. In the 18th century model, the bookstores stocked titles for all publishers alongside their own. Since most publishers also had bookstores little cash changed hands between the companies. Instead they swapped books.

This would be an ideal way to knock the wind out of the wild and reckless price wars that are erupting all over. Consolidating the selling of books and the production of books ensures that they are sold at the correct price and not subsidised by other product lines in an effort to squeeze out the competition and eventually be able to dictate prices from publishers. It also has a lovely bartering and cooperative feel to it that appeals to me.

What do you think?

6 comments:

Heather said...

I think it sounds like a lovely idea. Oh to live in a world full of lots of little books shops rather than obligatory waterstones/Borders/etc

SueG said...

Interesting. The Calder Bookshop in London actually is co-owned by Alma Publishing, and on their shelves are all their books, plus some others which strike their fancy. It's a wonderful place and somehow stays in business....

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Heather I read recently about a love "neighbourhood bookshop" in America. I love the idea of a bookshop in every neighbourhood- and better still a bookshop that is also a publisher. Imagine the wealth of very local books that might be produced. Am I drifting into dreamland???

Sue- Thanks for that info. Perhaps Calder Bookshop is the place to start.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

A new and used bookstore just opened in my neighborhood, I've got to get over there ASAP.

bonita said...

For years one of my favorite NYC haunts was the Scribner's Book Store on Fifth Avenue, the only landmark building in NYC designed to house a bookstore. As a publisher, Scribner was the first to publish a long list of excellent writers. Oh! Alas, it might be too much to hope that the practice might be resurrected.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Elizabeth- we have NO used bookstores in Botswana. Ocassionally you can find people have set up a table selling second hand books and I attack like hyenas at a lion's kill.

Bonita- All sorts of creative ways could emerge from this chaos if people have hope. Let's cross fingers!