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BookNet's big show

It’s a big show for BookNet Canada, which announced several new projects on the eve of this year’s BookExpo.

One of those is a study of the way returns affect the Canadian book market. “Nobody knows the individual cost of returns,” said BookNet CEO Michael Tamblyn at the trade show on Sunday. “Each individual publisher [wonders], are they getting hurt more or less than the others. Are there particular things we could be doing? Is there a certain level [of returns] that would be optimal?”

So throughout the summer, BookNet will speak to people in various industry sectors, seeking “even anecdotal opinions,” says Tamblyn. The plan then calls for more formal large-scale industry meetings in early autumn, to hammer out the proper methodology for the study, and then hard research will commence after the Christmas rush.

BookNet has also prepared a report on the impact of various broadcast media on book sales. Over April and May of 2006, the agency tracked media appearances promoting about 200 different titles, across 20 different media outlets, and then watched for sales spikes of 10% to 20%. The full results will be released only to BookNet subscribers (since they contain actual sales figures, which BookNet does not release publicly). In general, Tamblyn says, TV shows like CTV’s Canada AM and Citytv’s Breakfast Television appear to give big boosts to service-oriented titles, while CBC Radio shows like Sounds Like Canada also provide “definite sales impact.”

Finally, on Saturday, The Globe and Mail‘s books section began running bestsellers listings derived, for the first time, from BookNet Canada; the Globe is now only the second publication in Canada (after Q&Q) to run the agency’s rankings, though Tamblyn says he still hopes to sign up more. The Globe‘s listings cover weekly sales for fiction and non-fiction in both hardcover and paperback formats, though Tamblyn notes that the paper generally omits more service-oriented titles from the non-fiction categories. “There are different ways you can slice bestsellers,” says Tamblyn. “We do leave that to the discretion of individual publishers – we just want to make sure the rankings are accurate within those criteria.”