Next up, Steve Bohme, UK researcher for Nielsen Bookscan, takes the room through a sneak peak of the embargoed statistics for 2015. Needless to say, if you love statistics and Star Wars, then it was the perfect session. A great insight into how the industry is faring. Specifics will be available upon the report’s full release later this month.
Edelweiss & Above the Treeline
Patrick Neale of Edelweiss and Above the Treeline comes next, showcasing great platforms for book selling. He joined the book trade in 1988 and has been a passionate bookseller ever since in various places, discovering Above the Treeline when at a conference in America.
You send sales and stock data daily, and it’s amalgamated so you can then compare yours to the aggregate. Your statistics are not accessible by anyone bar yourself. For bestsellers, you can see which you’re stocking and, more importantly, which you aren’t. It offers a clear way to action stock change, and you can alter by both size and region.
Edelweiss is another platform that can be of massive use to those in the book trade. It’s a one stop shop for catalogues. Publishers pay to put their books on the site and anyone can have a look at it, although it’s a business-to-business site. There are over 60,000 users, and all the major publishers in the US are on it.
Patrick takes us through a demo of the site, showcasing the ease in which you can create your own mini catalogues with minimum effort. “It’s not attractive, but it’s functional.”
You feed in information about books and create an amazing catalogue in mere minutes. It’s complete freedom that’s very, very quick and very, very cheap. Two resources that companies could greatly benefit from.
Having cake and complaining about it?
The trade question time panel closes off the morning, with Lin Anderson, Roz de la Hey, Chris McCosh, Adrian Searle and Justin Adams on hand, a mix of authors, booksellers and publishers.
A lead topic is social media. “It’s absolutely critical,” says Adrian. As a small independent with no set marketing budget, it’s vital. It’s a way of getting straight to the consumer. For them, one sale direct from their website requires two and a half on Amazon to make the same.
About 90% of bookshop events are author-led, for Roz. One publisher event, a kind of ‘behind the scenes’, generated great interest, as did a teaching and parenting event with Edinburgh’s own Barrington Stoke, as it had a dyslexia focus. It was informal. They’re looking to take a bookshop van to schools with an author in tow, as another way of broadening their reach. There’s not huge numbers with these, but they’re very engaged events and mutually complementary.
When it comes to Amazon, one attendee questions whether publishers want to have their cake and complain about it. Adrian notes he would never say it’s all bad. It’s the discounts, and there will come a point where people will have to say no. But, the Kindle platform life is limited, whether that’s for 10 or 100 years. With the technology, it’s very easy to sell direct to consumers but there’s only one big shopping mall. When someone can provide more, people will move away.
Justin notes that people have already started to turn away from Amazon on a moral level. There’s lots it can’t do, like direct one-to-one relationships. It’ll be around for a while, but there is a number of legal people looking at them very closely. People should be aware that there is a lot being done behind the scenes, says Roz. The Booksellers Association has been progressing on several fronts: tax, predatory pricing, and so on. The question is bigger than the book trade, and we need to be careful we’re not sitting in the corner like whinging cavemen.
The Amazon response
Chris says that a group of publishers may say no (although that’s not going to happen), but he’s from a small indie in a small town and you see ever more beautiful books coming through. The response to that and survival is looking better, which is one different take on the Amazon threat.
Lin notes that 6% of writers in the UK can live on what they earn. We all need writers to write. Money goes straight into the bank from Amazon, where they can wait a long time for numbers for publishers. On that front it’s been positive. She’s always on the side of real books but the market is there for writers.
A varied and interesting chat on the climate of publishing, with particular reference to Amazon and its domination in the field.