Monday, December 22, 2008

Do We Believe In Magic?

We read today the brave words and intent from the new owner of Book Club Associates. They intend to hit the business with a multi tasked hit squad to get it back on target. Reading the report in the Bookseller was like watching an old Sir John Harvey Jones’ ‘Troubleshooter’ programme without the logic and panache. It mentions cutting back on catalogues and more direct targeting and the thought that there are ‘enough areas in which the company could make cost savings without resorting to job cuts’. The basic problems aren’t the costs it’s the outdated model.

We wish them well, but maybe it will be a sad fare-well more than a successful one. Others book clubs of their era have found the transformation too much, too late, too far. The hit squad reminds us of the saying regarding cooks and broth and no matter how many are deployed it’s the focus and mandate that counts.

The BCA model lost its way many years ago and never adapted to the changing consumer and Internet. To day it stand like a dinosaur in the mists of technology, thrashing around and still believing that ‘book of the month’ is a good thing, twigging categories till they become meaningless is wise and introductory offers will always pull them in.

The fact is that the best book club today is Amazon. No book of the month, to remember to return or face an argument over. No twigging, but instead a huge integrated catalogue and clear understanding that heavy readers are by their nature eclectic and always have been. All this and more, and that is without Booksurge and Audible and of course the Kindle.Where there was a gap other capable players such as The Book People have stepped up and stolewn it.

So what’s BCA going to do to compete? The BCA model is built on print punts and buy ins which work on a buoyant market but tend to fall flat and add even more excess in today’s tight market. It is difficult to see the appeal as a generalist and also as a specialist and unless there is a mass closure of bookstores it hard to see it working on the old posted catalogue.

We wait and hope that one of the hit squad can bring some sanity to the exercise.

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