Friday, December 22, 2006

The Glass is Half Full

King Canute tried to order the waves back and failed to win his battle against the tide. We all know that story but more importantly we now understand through science why he got wet.

I was saddened to read the article from the Peterborough Telegraph of the 21st December. It was highlighted by The Bookseller and reported on author George Walker’s lone stand against Amazon on behalf of independent bookshops and the backing he was getting from the Forum of Private Business (FPB) on this issue. He is quoted as saying, “Far from its stated aim of making all books available for ‘research‘, what it is actually doing is getting the independents do the market research; when a book gets a certain amount of attention, Amazon will attempt to stock it and cut the independents out. Not with my book!” He is now demanding they withdraw his latest novel from sale. The FPB’s chief executive, Nick Goulding said: “Amazon’s unfair trading practices are making it impossible for smaller retailers to compete, it needs to realise that its size does not entitle it to special treatment, it must play by the rules.”

The article itself is poorly constructed, clearly fails to grasp or explore the economics and commercial processes of the book trade. It even goes on to lambaste Amazon’s offshore VAT loophole practice which it says is costing the UK economy £80 million a year. It is sad to think that people often believe what they read!

Like them, or not, we must respect that without the likes of the Internet and on line retailers the book market would not have the exposure it is currently enjoying, the market itself would be in decline and we would not be enjoying the benefits of long tail economics and would only have “smash hits, the charts and celebrity spins”. The internet has not only rejuvenated the market it has brought addition sales, greater exposure and generated significant interest in books.

I strongly believe that independents will survive but in doing so they need to recognize what they do best, where they add customer value and how they build on the relationships they have.

I am afraid Mr Walker is standing on some beach and watching the tide coming in and instead of accepting it, understanding it and potentially harnessing it, is blindly ordering it to stop.

This Christmas the Queen’s speech will be available to download as a podcast and the text will be also available online. It is important that we all see the glass as half full and not empty and we look at ways to adapt and adopt technology and the services that use it.

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