The centre can hold

<p>The news this week that Tesco is planning an instore promotion for the Booker shortlist in September is a sign of just how fast the world is changing. One can almost hear the collective sharp intake of breath across literary London.</p>
<p>Elsewhere, in this week's <a href=" feature,</a> we look at what the success of the supermarkets means for other retailers, principally the high street chains. The fact that the supermarkets are becoming increasingly ambitious and successful book retailers should be of no surprise: they have hoovered up category after category, from clothing to electricals to entertainment. Their dominance of the high street is a fact of life: Tesco accounts for roughly twice the share of retail spend in the UK that Wal-Mart does in the US.</p>
<p>Specialist book retailers have put up a sterling fight against the supermarkets, who, despite all their buying power, still accounted for only 12.6% of the market by volume in 2006, albeit this is up sharply from 8% as recently as 2003 (BMI figures). Over the same period, online retail has pretty much doubled to 11%, while the independents have also&nbsp; increased market share, from 15.6% to 15.9%.</p>
<p>Someone must be losing out, and accordingly it is a less rosy picture for the chains, who have seen share slide from 38.4% to 34.9%. The middle ground has become a dangerous place to be, under attack from three directions at once. The supermarkets can beat you on price; the internet can beat you on range; and the independents can beat you on experience, &quot;localness&quot; and often enthusiasm too.</p>
<p>But it is far too early to start heading for the lifeboats. The combined share of the chains, principally provided by the 1,000 stores of Waterstone's and W H Smith, is substantial. Smiths is competing vigourously on price in the mass market, and its travel business is well placed for future growth with the addition of 52 motorway stores and strong airport sales. The overall business is shrinking, but becoming more profitable, and books are rising up the agenda internally as the entertainment offer is disintermediated by the web.</p>
<p>Waterstone's occupies a special place in the nation's cultural life as the leading specialist, national, book chain. Innovations such as the website, loyalty programme and centralised distribution can build on its established strengths of staff, stores, brand and reach.</p>