Neale: 'Bookselling financial model needs updating'

Booksellers Association president Patrick Neale has said “more needs to be done” by publishers to bring the core financial model of the bookselling supply chain up to date.
In his opening address at the Booksellers Association Conference at the University of Warwick this morning (23rd September) Neale said publishers had to “look again” at the financial model for booksellers because “more can be done, and the more quickly it can be done, the better for the whole ecosystem".
He said: “The book value chain has undergone a revolution during the last 20 years and publishers, exploring new routes to market through new channels, have embraced new models. And yet, in the main, the core financial model of supply to bookshops remains unaltered.” He added that although “work is taking place” to amend this, it wasn’t happening quickly enough.
Neale also told the conference he could detect a “shift in the narrative” of the media and public perception of bookshops as “places solely for retired colonels and the technically inept”. He praised the BA, working through Midas PR, for the change in perception. “They have campaigned to communicate the value of bookshops and the vibrancy of the sector, while at the same time getting across the complexity of the issues faced,” Neale said. “It’s an incredibly fine balance to strike. Go too far in accentuating the positive and you begin to look like Pollyanna . . . Go the other way and you help confirm another lazy assumption that bookshops are moribund. And it positions us as a charity case—which we don’t want either.”
He said British booksellers were another "keystone species" like the bumblebee. If bees disappeared from the planet then man would only have four more years of life left, Neale said. He added: “Now I don’t claim to be Einstein; nor do I claim that the extinction of the bookshop would lead to the death of the planet in less time than it takes to establish a new author. But it doesn’t take a genius, or an optimist, to suggest that the role that booksellers play in the ecosystem of writing and publishing and the health and welfare of authors, publishers and readers is a fundamental one.”
He advised booksellers to “look for the infinite possibilities” in their local communities and within their own businesses to prosper, and finished telling the conference that he thought there was more vibrancy in the industry than ever before.
“I truly believe that there are more vibrant booksellers in the sector now than at any time in the past,” Neale said. “We need to constantly convince and remind our publisher colleagues that we are people to do business with.”
The BA Conference opened with the Gardners Trade Show yesterday (22nd September) and concludes later today with a keynote speech from Bill Bryson.