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Brit indies stick it to The Man

Indie booksellers in Canada may think they’ve got it bad when it comes to the ever-encroaching chains, but English booksellers took another blow last week when “Ottakar’s, the second-largest book chain, finally fell to the largest, Waterstone’s, creating an even bigger and more powerful chain across the country,” according to a Guardian story. “Added to this, the huge supermarket chains compete directly with the independent booksellers, and undercut them so heavily on price that the bookshops, with their high-street rents, cannot survive. Forty have closed in the past six months. In 2005 Tesco increased its book sales by 50 per cent, and earlier this year it was the top retailer for a number of bestsellers. In fact, the supermarkets now sell more books (with only a tiny choice of titles) than the whole independent sector put together.”

But the independent publishers are coming together with the bookshops to give The Man a poke in the eye. Faber’s chief executive, Stephen Page, has “devised an inspired scheme that may now help bookshops and publishers compete more fairly and effectively with the chains” by creating an alliance between independent publishers and bookshops.

An independent publisher alliance began last year, “when a group of fiercely independent publishers, Atlantic, Canongate, Faber, Icon, Profile, Short Books and Quercus, came together to consolidate their sales in the UK in the hope of being able to compete more effectively with the conglomerates” (and is coming along nicely, with entree into arenas like Tesco, Asda, Amazon, and Woolworths), and now booksellers have been welcomed into the fold. “As their market share has declined and all efforts have focused on the bestseller lists, publishers — at their peril — have neglected the independent bookshops. So the Alliance has created more favourable terms, comparable to those given to the chains, for the independents. There are going to be special promotions — summer reading and Christmas campaigns — and Alliance authors will be asked to focus their bookshop marketing activities on the independents.”

The alliance also hopes to try a recommended-reading list similar to the American indie publishers’ Book Sense List, and have found that booksellers are loving the alliance so far.

Related links:
Check out the Guardian story here