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Re: OT: Books

Bil Shear wrote:

<<  The ad placed in the AIS Bulletin was to order the book at a rather
 price direct from the author, as I understand it.... No one I have heard
from yet who has ordered the book through a book seller at the lower price
has recieved it.>>

I feel that as a former  member of the professional bookselling community
with years of experience as an inventory buyer in an independent bookstore
doing close to two million dollars per annum in sales, and also as one who
worked for Barnes and Noble for a while until I could no longer stomach the
inefficiency, I should perhaps share some intuitions about this situation
with you in case someone is trying to get this book as a Christmas gift for
someone. Understand clearly that I have no inside information about what is
actually happening with this one book, and I know well from experience that
many difficult things are possible in the hands of a creative and motivated
retailer, but I do know the industry system, and here are some stray
thoughts, if you are interested.

I interpret the ad in the AIs bulletin as an attempt to bypass the usual
means of distribution in this market and to offer the book to the target
purchasers directly. I do not assume this is greed, but may be an attempt, in
fact, to keep the price manageable. I suspect there is an agent here or in
the UK that is handling the books for Grosvesnor and thus they are probably
being shipped out directly from that agent, which is why they are being
received so quickly. There are legalities of international distribution
rights that must be observed, and not every foreign book is, or can, be
offered for sale or distribution here. The normative expectation is that a
domestic publisher would have picked up the title and added it to their list,
or that some other reciprocal arrangement would be made to effect
international sales. Neither is inevitable,and both would probably have
driven the price up.

Shipping times: If indeed the book is coming to a jobber or other
representative in quantity it seems probable that it will be coming surface,
not air. Books are heavy. If they are coming individually from Austalia they
may be coming air and that tends to up the cost. Surface takes a good deal
longer and then there is Customs, etc.

Now, "Distributor" in this country means either a publisher or a wholesale
jobber. Bookstores, online or otherwise, buy from one or the other. In either
case they receive the book at a discount which is a function of what kind of
book it is, and how many are bought at once. Jobbers buy from the publisher
as well. A working rough estimate of trade discount to bookstores is forty to
fifty percent discount off the cover price. This is wholesale, and the
shipping costs are usually paid by the bookstore. I hasten to say that this
is not profit, this is gross from which all expenses of running the operation
must be deducted before you are talking about profit. Jobbers get slightly
greater discount, and offer less to bookstores. Large booksellers generally
buy as much as possible directly from the publisher, but they also buy from
jobbers, especially for special orders of obscure books . The publisher does
not have to sell to either one, and may decide not to sell at discount to
anyone. Like AIS. One reason for this is that they do not then have to mess
with accepting returns of quantities of beat-up books that were not sold,
since there is a return priveiledge on unsold books.Thus, the pat answer that
one gets from these operations that they are trying to get it from their
"distributor" means little. They may or may not be trying to get it from the
publisher or a jobber, who may or many not be trying to get it from overseas.
They could be negotiating, or waiting until they get enough orders to make it
worthwhile to mess with it, or placating you. It's a piece of industry jargon
to suggest they are still working on it.

Now, the databases of both Amazon and B&N are full of garbage. There is stuff
there that isn't available, hasn't been available,  and won't be available
except through a specialist out-of -print search at megabucks. Amazon is more
current than B&N. But both are full of stuff that will not be delivered if
you order it. I know this. Orders are taken and that information apparently
becomes part of the database and people see it and so forth and so on it
goes. There is very little database cleanup going on that I can see. Multiple
or superceded editions are listed when only one is available, prices are not
corrected or updated----which is why, I suspect, that people are getting the
Cambridge species book at the price that was announced pre-publication not
the post- publication adjustment------ and there is stuff there that hasn't
been around for years. Sad but true. Check out the AIS publications clutter

I do most sincerely hope that B&N and Amazon, both of whom I also deal with
occasionally, can manage to get this book for all those who are interested.
But I would not bet anything precious on it. Discount and great customer
service do not inevitably go hand in hand.

Anner Whitehead, Richmond, VA
Henry Hall  henryanner@aol.com

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