Thursday, May 31, 2007

Has your book been beeped?

One thing I love about Tucson is the bookshops. Probably it's the same in every US city - YA and children's paperbacks for $3.99-$5.99, where in Australia we are paying $11.95-$16.95 (or more) for a similar or same thing. So you can understand why I go a bit berserk. I already have bought more books than I should have, but it's hard to stop! And when I can visit not only Borders and Barnes & Noble and independent Antigones, but also Bookmans secondhand bookstores (3 of them), it gets really hard to know when to stop. I have to keep reminding myself that I have to carry all of them home.
At one of the large stores, I met someone (who shall not be named) who explained to me why books don't stay on the shelves very long. Apparently every month employees go around with a scanner and scan all the books and the ones that beep get taken off and sent back to the publisher. Each book is programmed in the computer as to when it was put on the shelf, so that 90 day shelf life we hear about really is exactly 90 days in most cases!
What's worse is that paperbacks don't even get sent back to the publisher because the freight costs aren't worth it. They rip off the covers and send them back and the rest of the book gets dumped in the rubbish.
If a book is selling well, it gets to stay longer, but we all know how many books are published every month here and what authors are competing against - well, they're competing against sheer volume before anything else! Now I have to do some sleuthing back in Australia and find out if this is common practice in bookshops there.

1 comment:

Tracey said...

Yes, that explains that little note that some American books have on the imprint page about "if this book does not have a cover..." and why that's there. Ninety days, eh? Shows how hard it is for the first time novelist whose publisher hasn't got behind them with a big marketing push. Maybe we should all go out and buy a copy of our own books at about day 80?