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Digital and high r.r.p.s hitting hardback sales

Publishers and independent booksellers are stressing the importance of "working harder" on hardback fiction titles, as sales of the format fell by £3.2m over the first half of 2011.

Leading publishing figures and independent booksellers said increasing e-book sales were a contributing factor in the sales drop, but Simon & Schuster executive director Kerr MacRae said e-books are not enough to be an "excuse". According to Nielsen BookScan data, sales of hardback fiction titles fell by 10% year on year in the seven months to 30th July, with sales of paperback fiction down only 6% to 18th June. 

The recommended retail price for fiction hardbacks has correspondingly gone up over the period, with r.r.p. up by 0.9%, or 15p, year on year, and up 10.9%, or £1.61, on five years ago. Average discounts have also increased, rising this year to 37.2%, up from 34.8% last year and 29.8% five years ago. The average selling price has fallen by 2.8%, or 30p, year on year to £10.29, and is down 0.9%, or 9p, on five years ago. 

Independent booksellers have been hit, emphasising price was the largest factor dissuading customers, with consumers opting to wait for the paperback. Foyles c.e.o. Sam Husain said: "My guess is the concern is due to pricing as the average price appears to be about £20. It is compounded by not so many good titles being available. . . Paperbacks have been selling well and there has been a sense that people have moved to a more competitively priced product."

Patrick Neale, co-owner of Jaffé & Neale Bookshop in Chipping Norton, said publishers offering limited signed editions was one way of recouping lost sales, as that "pushes price issues away".  Vivian Archer, manager of Newham Bookshop in east London, said real support can make hardback fiction titles a success. However, she added: "We have definitely seen a slow-down on authors that would normally sell. A lot of fiction can be bought in supermarkets. There are so many people competing now." 

Headline sales director Aslan Byrne said though the economic climate meant price was putting some consumers off, the shift to e-books was "the biggest factor". Byrne said there was a "real future" for hardback fiction titles, attracting heavy book buyers and also as a means of making an impact with a début. However, he added some big name authors may see sales moving more from hardbacks to digital over the coming months.

He said: "I'll be surprised if there is not a year-on-year decline in hardback fiction, because some of those people who can't wait to have it [the next title from their favourite author] will go digital."

Publishing figures backed up booksellers over the need to support hardback fiction more strongly. MacRae at S&S said: "The consumer hasn't gone away, and they haven't all gone digitally native. The market is tough . . . Publishers need to work harder to grab their share."

He cited the importance of considering price, as S&S did by lowering the r.r.p. on Jackie Collins' latest novel to £14.99, and said: "We needed to make a bigger noise, a lower price, and make the book irresistible."

Penguin General m.d. Joanna Prior added that the first edition format and title must be matched carefully. She said: "The economics of hardback publishing is going to be harder to sustain as e-books become more popular."

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Bundle the ebook with the hardback, is my suggestion.

While we have two of the major publishing groups unable or unwilling to reply to simple emails for information on forthcoming hardback fiction ("we don't do paper catalogues any more, just email us for information" - was the message I had at the London Book Fair) I sense that publishers are like rabbits caught in the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut, mesmerised and petrified in equal measure.

If publishers move out of hardbacks and straight to ebooks this will kill off waterstones, independents and even smiths / supermarkets. I'm amazed at Penguin citing this so upfront when they are putting retails up to £30 and then state they are wanting to support the high street/james daunt in particular.

No-one seems yet to have realized the profound impact of these hardback price hikes have on the library market. There's been a huge amount of fuss about library closures but nothing about the limitations being placed on library purchase budgets. The result is often that even highly praised new titles from publishers like Allen Lane never ever reach library users. I've run an analysis of their list in our county library catalogue and the omissions are truly scary - they'll get even worse with this news.

I'm not surprised at all. I increasingly find that books I want to buy in hardback aren't available in hardback. So fewer sales follow as night follows day. And less money for the author. (Sometimes one can get a US hardback from you-know-who, so, UK publishers, that's a lost sale to you, not just a substituted paperback).

The hardback book has long been a natural device for getting the most money out of the keenest customers who don't want to wait for cheaper versions, which before the war were almost indistiguishable "First Cheap Edition" hardbacks. If the e-version is available simultaneously, the reason for buying the hardback has vanished. A second reason for buying the hardback was the assumption that this was a Real Book, which would last, as opposed to an ephemeral, creased-spine, throwaway paperback. For around 40 years now, this has no longer been the case in the UK. The hardback is bound in an unattractive and badly-wearing textured cardboard case. "Cloth" in the standard bibilograpgical description is a bad joke. Lately, even sewing has been abandoned, the leaves being guillotined and glued together. All this is hidden beneath a superbly designed dustwrapper, so the public have failed to notice what ammounts almost to fraud. Maybe, the hardback edition can again be sold as a Quality item - though I think several attempts to do so have foundered.

funny how few people are commenting on this most important of issues in book selling today,
we had a hard back memoir of a newspaper man less than 300 pages at £30, a paperback of a debate less than 100 pages at £7.99 the only people benefiting from this are the publishers and online retailers.
Publishers are really living in cloud cuckoo land.

Bundle the ebook with the hardback, is my suggestion.

While we have two of the major publishing groups unable or unwilling to reply to simple emails for information on forthcoming hardback fiction ("we don't do paper catalogues any more, just email us for information" - was the message I had at the London Book Fair) I sense that publishers are like rabbits caught in the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut, mesmerised and petrified in equal measure.

If publishers move out of hardbacks and straight to ebooks this will kill off waterstones, independents and even smiths / supermarkets. I'm amazed at Penguin citing this so upfront when they are putting retails up to £30 and then state they are wanting to support the high street/james daunt in particular.

No-one seems yet to have realized the profound impact of these hardback price hikes have on the library market. There's been a huge amount of fuss about library closures but nothing about the limitations being placed on library purchase budgets. The result is often that even highly praised new titles from publishers like Allen Lane never ever reach library users. I've run an analysis of their list in our county library catalogue and the omissions are truly scary - they'll get even worse with this news.

I'm not surprised at all. I increasingly find that books I want to buy in hardback aren't available in hardback. So fewer sales follow as night follows day. And less money for the author. (Sometimes one can get a US hardback from you-know-who, so, UK publishers, that's a lost sale to you, not just a substituted paperback).

The hardback book has long been a natural device for getting the most money out of the keenest customers who don't want to wait for cheaper versions, which before the war were almost indistiguishable "First Cheap Edition" hardbacks. If the e-version is available simultaneously, the reason for buying the hardback has vanished. A second reason for buying the hardback was the assumption that this was a Real Book, which would last, as opposed to an ephemeral, creased-spine, throwaway paperback. For around 40 years now, this has no longer been the case in the UK. The hardback is bound in an unattractive and badly-wearing textured cardboard case. "Cloth" in the standard bibilograpgical description is a bad joke. Lately, even sewing has been abandoned, the leaves being guillotined and glued together. All this is hidden beneath a superbly designed dustwrapper, so the public have failed to notice what ammounts almost to fraud. Maybe, the hardback edition can again be sold as a Quality item - though I think several attempts to do so have foundered.

funny how few people are commenting on this most important of issues in book selling today,
we had a hard back memoir of a newspaper man less than 300 pages at £30, a paperback of a debate less than 100 pages at £7.99 the only people benefiting from this are the publishers and online retailers.
Publishers are really living in cloud cuckoo land.