One might think with the ubiquity of Amazon and the prevalence of consumer generated reviews and book clubs, that book-selling was one of those sectors so open to the power of the crowd that it would be pretty replete with all the new practices. It probably is in many ways, but it’s also got more than a hint of the old top-down model too according to a story in today’s Times.
Every day thousands of shoppers decide to buy a new book because Waterstone’s prominently displays or recommends it.
The reader may imagine that merit alone has inspired the country’s largest book chain to champion the volume now resting in their hands. The truth is a little less romantic.
In a confidential letter to publishers seen by The Times, Waterstone’s has set out what it expects them to pay if they want their books to be well promoted in its network of more than 300 stores this Christmas.
The most expensive package, available for only six books and designed to “maximise the potential of the biggest titles for Christmas”, costs £45,000 per title. The next category down offers prominent display spots at the front of each branch to about 45 new books for £25,000. Inclusion on the Paperbacks of the Year list costs up to £7,000 for each book, while an entry in Waterstone’s Gift Guide, with a book review, is a relative snip at £500.
The purchase decision-making process for a book, like music, is a wonderfully complicated and personal thing and so it’s a tad shocking when we realise that many of us are as driven by what’s near the till or in the window (and that’s driven by money not popularity or ‘taste’) as we are by our studied examination of the dust cover and reader-reviews. Perhaps the revolution has been a little delayed, or perhaps Waterstone’s, is running a risk longer-term of looking out of step with their customers’ tastes.
[tags] Democratisation, Waterstone’s [/tags]