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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  1998

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 1998

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Subject:

RE: Pro

From:

"Anthony Frazer" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Anthony Frazer

Date:

Wed, 21 Jan 1998 18:32:42 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (95 lines)

Your response to the current marketing debate was very valuable, the more
so as it comes from someone in the business.

On the subject of Amazon, I take your point, but, from the purchaser's
point of view, the reality is a little different. If you live in London,
New York, San Francisco, Seattle (to take but four that have great
bookstores) then there is little problem in getting what you want or indeed
finding that it exists. If you live anywhere else (and I have not lived in
a city with a decent English-language bookstore for 23 years), or if you
live in the provinces of the UK (I grew up in a city of 200,000-plus there
which, until  1973, did not have a single bookstore that carried more than
high-school textbooks and the odd Penguin) or in Boondocks, Missouri,
you/we/I have a problem. Mail order services / catalogues help the
situation, but they don't answer the basic need of book buyers like myself
who want to be surprised now and again, who want to browse. I do not know
of an alternative source (except maybe Barnes & Noble Online - I've not
tried it) which could have allowed me to discover, as I did recently, Peter
Cole's translation of Shmuel HaNagid, a tenth century Spanish Hebrew poet.
It may well be that I am at fault here for not knowing of or being able to
find other sources.

What I am saying is that, faults aside (and the discount thing - at least
in its current form - is recent, caused by the entry of B & N into internet
commerce), Amazon is satisfying a basic need, which actually cannot be met
by the current status quo. We are in a transitional phase right now and it
is not obvious where the market will go. However, I think a cautionary note
against immediate prejudice is worth sounding, based on the experience of
Borders and Barnes & Noble in the States. Their spread may well have killed
off some smaller bookstores, especially the mom and pop variety, but their
competition with each other continues to bring large well-presented stores
to places that previously had no large scale access to books. One analysis
that I read last year said that, while the two chains' sales were still
increasing rapidly, the proportion of those sales represented by
mass-market best-seller list paperbacks was declining, and the proportion
represented by smaller publishers, including University presses, was
increasing. The inference drawn by the marketing analysts for this
unexpected turn of events was that the very provision of wide-ranging
choice (as distinct from the necessarily selective small stores and
best-seller driven airport/station racks) to a largely-untapped group of
buyers was leading to a change in the range of books actually being sold. I
expect that new age and self-help etc made up more of those lists than
poetry, but even the best small stores I know do not stock much poetry ...

Tony


----------
> De: [log in to unmask]
> A: [log in to unmask]
> Asunto: Pro
> Fecha: 21 January 1998 15:59
> 
> Marketing books for a mid-size publisher happens to be, presently, my
> bread and margarine.  The actualities of market massage are not very
> different than variously ornery political instincts might suggest: author
> celebrity is to be exploited, external scandal or deliciousness always
> helpful to land spots on E! et al., and all publicity is bought; the NYT
Book
> Review is now working against the inde's for Barnes and Noble, and any
> small-chunk review in it--up the spectrum to the Utne Reader etc.--can
> be counted on as a barter for advertisement.  Book purchasing, even the
> most deflated (corrected?) kind, of course is determined by author
> celebrity or at least hope of it, often the hope of conspicuous foresight
of
> author celebrity-- one of the less ethically upright, though certainly
> "human," insinuations of encouragement of unknowns in this and other
> communities.  The Book of Demons has been dredged for scandal
> external to its content, and if "scandal" implies a morality, let's
concede at
> the least fallability, the weakness of personal struggle, descent, and
> heroism, by which we can get access and understand our poets as we
> understand our Funniest Home Video bumblers.  Coddling this instinct by
> suggesting its inevitability seems a dull trick to play on behalf of a
> sluggish mass, unable really to get at it unless the same four-color,
> high-cost poster gives them the clue.  Marketing rules, generally, aim to
> cancel the effects and possibilities of surprise.  On the other hand,
this
> argument has been seen, hasn't it, to go nowhere, and to be an outlet for
> some vanity.
> 
> Also, Amazon.com is wrecking the business of many medium to small
> publishers, and is responsible especially in the university and academic
> presses for dwindling non-discounted sales which have turned the
> heads of those presses' commissioning editors away from books of
> advanced (if not celebrity) scholarship which would never have sold
> more than a few hundred copies.  It and other on-line book indices
> confirm the assumption of most customers that books are overpriced and
> the prices charged by booksellers, especially small and independent
> ones, grossly inflated.
> 
> Andrea


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