Indie Bookstores: Not Unlike a Bedside Manner

Bookdwarf, who is apparently more quick on the draw with my hometown newspaper than I am, points to this interesting claim by A Clean Well-Lighted Place President Neal Sofman. Sofman discovered a study of Chicago merchants illustrating that local retailers recirculate more of their sales dollars into the local economy than do chains. The study in question can be found here. If this is indeed the case, then why are the big publishers spending a substantial chunk of their promotion money placing authors into large corporate venues like Borders (and, for that matter, withholding their authors from smaller and more independent media outlets)? Would not a more targeted and devoted audience of readers more inclined to buy books and shift cash into the local economy be a more effective marketing strategy?

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  1. That’s because big corporate publishers don’t really care how much money circulates through the local economy. Once it flows from the Borders customer’s wallet to their distant corporate coffers, that ends their interest in currency circulation. Like any other corporation, they only answer to their directors, shareholders and institutional investors, and not the communities they bleed dry.

    Also, if patrons of independent bookstores were really “more inclined to buy books”, the independents would be thriving rather than steadily shutting their doors.

    Local retailers are good for communities, but bad for Wall Street. Which is why the corporate publishers are beating them down at every opportunity.

  2. I’ll preface this with the admission taht I’m the asshole that shops at indie’s and at borders. i don’t know that indies are steadily shutting their doors, but I suspect that difficulties they have in staying open have more to do with economies of scale than their patron’s spending habits.
    I doubt any mega-publishers are banging on the door of say, Modern Times, for paid-for-placment [not they necessarily want or would accept such offers] shelving, etc… I don’t think indies are “bad for wall street” so much as a non-factor for wall street (as they have no investors) that become the collateral damage of corporate juggernauts.
    I’m not worried, though. If there is anti-competitive behaviour, I am sure the FTC will put an end to it, especially when pressure from the media starts to surface.

  3. Tito, I hope that last sentence was made in jest. Both concepts–the FTC cracking down on big corporations in the interest of fair competition, and the mass media exerting any meaningful pressure–are, at best, wishful thinking.

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