News

Barnsley: bookshops could charge for browsing

HarperCollins c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley has said the idea of the bookshop as a book club, charging for browsing, is "not that insane", given the level of threat faced by the general bookshop.

Barnsley was speaking to broadcaster Evan Davis on BBC Radio 4's "The Bottom Line"  on Saturday (9th February), alongside literary agent Jonny Geller and Kobo's Michael Tamblyn, in an investigation of the future of publishing.

Barnsley predicted that the level of digital e-book sales would "level off and end up being more like 50/50 [physical books and e-books] for quite some time, if the physical bookshops survive". But she said the survival of the physical bookshop was "the big question". "Readers still do quite like physical books, the question is, will they be able to buy them, actually," she told Davis.

Citing a reported figure that only 35% of fiction in the UK is bought through a physical bookshop, Barnsley commented: "They are under enormous pressure," suggesting that asking customers to "pay for the privilege of browsing" was not an insane concept in the current environment. Certain shoeshops in the US are already charging customers to try on shoes, she noted.

E-book pricing was also discussed, with Geller describing the 20p e-book phenomenon as "a real danger for all of us", commenting: "If you're going to pay 20p for Life of Pi, which is a film, why would you ever pay £1?"

Barnsley said there was a major debate within the industry over DRM, commenting: "If you don't have it, the risk is that there's a lot of sharing . . . [but] keeping it on allows retailers like Amazon to continue running their walled gardens which is not a good thing."

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Once again it seems the Barnsleys, Rebucks and Hely-Hutchinsons of this world are just interested in maintaining their media presence by chucking out ridiculous ill-informed soundbites to cause a stir.

How does she think WH Smith are still going? It's because publishers like HarperCollins chuck thousands of pounds at them to stick their tacky nonsense in customers' faces. The same goes for supermarkets. This seems to be the only way for other booksellers to survive - Waterstones to start charging ratecard, publishers offering more flexibility on discount or credit, even consignment to other booksellers. Not charging to be a showroom. That would be a surefire way to speed up your own death.

And 50/50 ebook sales? Not from where I'm standing. But I imagine she's only considering fiction and biogs. Again, these publishing "figureheads" need to stop spewing up glib ebook predictions and embarrassing ideas such as this and start working with the trade in a more constructive fashion.

They give the rest of us a bad name with their showboating.

Another nail in the coffin I would suspect - surely a far better idea would be for this publisher to 'level playing field' (ie. at least 60% discount for independents to enable them to match the onliners and big chains) and/or better still give them 'promotional' copies to show to non-fee paying browsers (potential customers) instead of scaring them off !
Could it be a win-win situation for HC if they were to initiate

Maybe rather than book shops charging customers the big publishers should pay for the privilege of having their books physically on display. But I don's suppose Ms Barnsley likes that idea as much...

Since Amazon actually encourages its customers to go "showrooming", it occured to me last year that bricks 'n' mortar stores should start charging Amazon for the use of our staff time and merchandise (some of which, especially toys, is frequently damaged or destroyed from all the handling). By encouraging "showrooming", Amazon is conceding the necessity of bricks 'n' mortar stores, they just don't want to pay for it. What's that called when you take something without paying for it? Stealing?

If Victoria is worried about independent bookshops, perhaps she can tell us why they are putting up many of there best-selling back catalogue books to £9.99?

£8.99 is bad enough, but the amount of people I have had picking up books like Wolf hall and asking if the price is really £9.99 before putting it back! And now it will be the same for the Game of thrones books with their recent hike to £9.99. Surely she must know that this will drive customers on line where they will still pay £3 - £5 for them.

It’s not just Harper, but with many publishers hiking the books prices up well over inflation levels in their bid to offset lost revenues to e-book sales, it is yet another nail in our coffin.

Charging people to browse in bookshops is absolutely INSANE.
And shoes are a very different kettle of fish.

Where else can you get Kindle format books other than in the Kindle store?

The point about DRM is that if you have a library of Kindle ebooks you can't read them on other hardware or in the app of your choice. So either you buy all your ebooks from Amazon or you have your library fragmented by DRM scheme - Kindle, Adobe, iBooks etc.

Does this woman live in the real world? Bookshops charging for browsing will make even more people buy their books online.

I don't understand her comment about Amazon's walled garden either? Amazon uses a different format to other ebook retailers, but they don't insist that I have DRM on the ebooks I've published and, because I haven't signed up to an exclusive deal, I am free to sell my Kindle books via other routes. Similarly, as a Kindle owner, I am free to buy Kindle format books anywhere I please. So where's the wall?

For me, WH Smith are still going because they stock sufficent things that I can have now, at a not outrageous price. Rather than going online, and awaiting the convenience of a seller to post the item.

When I first read... "Barnsley....." , I thought "God, are they still miffed That Terry Butcher refused to leave Inverness Caledionian...?".

But no.., it's just another CEO with a stupid idea.

I recommend listening to the programme in full to get the breadth of the debate, which obviously couldn't be reproduced here. The link is included in the piece above.

Well, it would certainly be good for public libraries!

Might it be better, though, for publishers to stop sabotaging themselves by doing heavy discounts on their most reliably best-selling titles (which simultaneously kicks small bookshops in the teeth)?

All the public domain websites like Project Gutenberg and Classicly offer their free books (Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens etc) in Kindle format which you download straight to your reader.

Have never seen anyone selling Kindle format books though except on Amazon.

One can browse online from the comfort of your home for free. To be required to pay in a store is ludicrous. I won’t go to a shopping center that charges for parking.

Would you pay to browse in Walmart?

What this article demonstrates to me is the great divide between being a publisher and a retailer. It also highlights one of the many hurdles publishers face as they have to reset their business in the changing retail environment they are faced with and are up against. As many already know Amazon and it's massive footprint is forcing changes that 10 years ago were not imagined. Amazon is laying waste and at the same time creating opportunities. The U.K. is quickly becoming a one company nation for the retail sale of books. The fractional nature of the publishing business is a weakness. Publishers act independently while facing these changes. As a group working together they the industry could be far more effective. As an example now that Bertelsmann and Pearson have joined forces as opposed to the standard clearing out of back offices and streamlining they should be moving quickly to design, market and sell their own high level ereader and enter that market in a big way. The world loves new devices and this new mega publisher has the resources now to truly compete in the retail market. Or the new mega publisher can like many of the other houses sit on the sidelines and hope they can survive the changes.

@Oliver_Rathbone - How do you think books end up in the most prominent display positions in chain booksellers and supermarkets now?

Another nail in the coffin I would suspect - surely a far better idea would be for this publisher to 'level playing field' (ie. at least 60% discount for independents to enable them to match the onliners and big chains) and/or better still give them 'promotional' copies to show to non-fee paying browsers (potential customers) instead of scaring them off !
Could it be a win-win situation for HC if they were to initiate

Maybe rather than book shops charging customers the big publishers should pay for the privilege of having their books physically on display. But I don's suppose Ms Barnsley likes that idea as much...

@Oliver_Rathbone - How do you think books end up in the most prominent display positions in chain booksellers and supermarkets now?

Does this woman live in the real world? Bookshops charging for browsing will make even more people buy their books online.

I don't understand her comment about Amazon's walled garden either? Amazon uses a different format to other ebook retailers, but they don't insist that I have DRM on the ebooks I've published and, because I haven't signed up to an exclusive deal, I am free to sell my Kindle books via other routes. Similarly, as a Kindle owner, I am free to buy Kindle format books anywhere I please. So where's the wall?

Where else can you get Kindle format books other than in the Kindle store?

The point about DRM is that if you have a library of Kindle ebooks you can't read them on other hardware or in the app of your choice. So either you buy all your ebooks from Amazon or you have your library fragmented by DRM scheme - Kindle, Adobe, iBooks etc.

All the public domain websites like Project Gutenberg and Classicly offer their free books (Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens etc) in Kindle format which you download straight to your reader.

Have never seen anyone selling Kindle format books though except on Amazon.

Charging people to browse in bookshops is absolutely INSANE.
And shoes are a very different kettle of fish.

Well, it would certainly be good for public libraries!

Might it be better, though, for publishers to stop sabotaging themselves by doing heavy discounts on their most reliably best-selling titles (which simultaneously kicks small bookshops in the teeth)?

Since Amazon actually encourages its customers to go "showrooming", it occured to me last year that bricks 'n' mortar stores should start charging Amazon for the use of our staff time and merchandise (some of which, especially toys, is frequently damaged or destroyed from all the handling). By encouraging "showrooming", Amazon is conceding the necessity of bricks 'n' mortar stores, they just don't want to pay for it. What's that called when you take something without paying for it? Stealing?

One can browse online from the comfort of your home for free. To be required to pay in a store is ludicrous. I won’t go to a shopping center that charges for parking.

Would you pay to browse in Walmart?

Once again it seems the Barnsleys, Rebucks and Hely-Hutchinsons of this world are just interested in maintaining their media presence by chucking out ridiculous ill-informed soundbites to cause a stir.

How does she think WH Smith are still going? It's because publishers like HarperCollins chuck thousands of pounds at them to stick their tacky nonsense in customers' faces. The same goes for supermarkets. This seems to be the only way for other booksellers to survive - Waterstones to start charging ratecard, publishers offering more flexibility on discount or credit, even consignment to other booksellers. Not charging to be a showroom. That would be a surefire way to speed up your own death.

And 50/50 ebook sales? Not from where I'm standing. But I imagine she's only considering fiction and biogs. Again, these publishing "figureheads" need to stop spewing up glib ebook predictions and embarrassing ideas such as this and start working with the trade in a more constructive fashion.

They give the rest of us a bad name with their showboating.

For me, WH Smith are still going because they stock sufficent things that I can have now, at a not outrageous price. Rather than going online, and awaiting the convenience of a seller to post the item.

When I first read... "Barnsley....." , I thought "God, are they still miffed That Terry Butcher refused to leave Inverness Caledionian...?".

But no.., it's just another CEO with a stupid idea.

I recommend listening to the programme in full to get the breadth of the debate, which obviously couldn't be reproduced here. The link is included in the piece above.

If Victoria is worried about independent bookshops, perhaps she can tell us why they are putting up many of there best-selling back catalogue books to £9.99?

£8.99 is bad enough, but the amount of people I have had picking up books like Wolf hall and asking if the price is really £9.99 before putting it back! And now it will be the same for the Game of thrones books with their recent hike to £9.99. Surely she must know that this will drive customers on line where they will still pay £3 - £5 for them.

It’s not just Harper, but with many publishers hiking the books prices up well over inflation levels in their bid to offset lost revenues to e-book sales, it is yet another nail in our coffin.

What this article demonstrates to me is the great divide between being a publisher and a retailer. It also highlights one of the many hurdles publishers face as they have to reset their business in the changing retail environment they are faced with and are up against. As many already know Amazon and it's massive footprint is forcing changes that 10 years ago were not imagined. Amazon is laying waste and at the same time creating opportunities. The U.K. is quickly becoming a one company nation for the retail sale of books. The fractional nature of the publishing business is a weakness. Publishers act independently while facing these changes. As a group working together they the industry could be far more effective. As an example now that Bertelsmann and Pearson have joined forces as opposed to the standard clearing out of back offices and streamlining they should be moving quickly to design, market and sell their own high level ereader and enter that market in a big way. The world loves new devices and this new mega publisher has the resources now to truly compete in the retail market. Or the new mega publisher can like many of the other houses sit on the sidelines and hope they can survive the changes.