Booksellers Association president Rosamund de la Hey has called on publishers not to forget the "growing" market for physical CDs when making plans for their audiobook businesses.
Opening the BA annual conference this morning (11th September), de la Hay, who is owner of the Main Street Trading Company in St Boswells, celebrated the "renaissance" of audio in the industry and made a plea to publishers to not neglect CDs when making plans for their audio businesses.
“The long-format boxed CD set is covetable and people, lots of people, are buying them. CD sales per title are on the increase and publishers are well aware of the potential of audio and are doing some great and innovative things with it", said de la Hey. “My plea would be to publishers not to forget CDs and to view them on the same profit and loss as downloads, perhaps even sharing some of the set up costs with marketing. More than one publisher has indicated to me that working this way supports the economics of CDs – it’s a growing market and we booksellers would very much like to re-join the party.”
Herself a former publisher at Bloomsbury, de la Hey added that she was seeing “more support from publishers” and praised the "record number" of publishers attending the audience. Citing innovative projects from publishers including HarperCollins’ Indie Initiative Project, de la Hey encouraged publishers to think of creative ways to support booksellers.
“It seems that publishers see booksellers as valued partners as never before. We are encouraging other publishers and suppliers to be open, creative and flexible in finding ways where they can help strengthen the ecosystem of bookselling by actively supporting and investing in bookshop openings,” she said.
The BA president also advised booksellers to “put themselves on the tourist map” and investigate whether they qualify to be labeled as "tourist shops".
"I’d like us to think about the concept of Bookshop Tourism. Let’s look at what we all do; what we offer and what we could very easily offer from the perspective of leisure providers", she said. "What experiences could we easily create and provide that our customers would love? While the rules do vary around the UK and Ireland, some bookshops with cafés are eligible for one of those fabled tourist Brown Signs in the category of ‘tourist shop’. Why not contact your regional body, be it Visit Scotland, England, Ireland or Wales and find out if you can join their Quality Assurance Scheme. Put yourself on the tourist map."
De la Hey added: "Maybe at this conference next year we might hear from a speaker from the leisure or tourist industry telling us about some transferable insights – top tips that savvy people in the leisure industry know – that we can adapt to our businesses”.
Speaking a year on from the launch of the Shop Floor initiative, de la Hey she said the challenge of publishers to spend a day working in bookshops has been "taken up with alacrity" by publishers, and to date over 40 senior publisher staff have visited over 20 bookshops from Edinburgh to East Grinstead, Sherborne to Bakewell.
“It’s been a great success and is an ongoing one with many more publishers lined up to visit", she said. "It’s running in Ireland, in the Christian sector and also with IPG Publishers, who are featuring it at their Autumn Conference next week. Our next step is to engage publicists and to extend it to the Academic sector. ”
De la Hay also reassured delegates that the BA is making the case “strongly” for improved business rates for booksellers, arguing that the system is no “longer fit for purpose”,
“The BA continues to lobby hard to government in Westminster and in Brussels for fairness in the market, a fair deal for booksellers and against the unfair competitive advantages that Amazon enjoys. Tim [Godfrey, BA c.e.o.] used the Parliamentary reception that we held in July to get the message across to MPs - and to the press – about the potential impact of rate rises. He pointed out that if just half of the bookshops facing a 10% or greater rate-rise were to go out of business as a result, 275 towns could find themselves without a bookshop. This message struck a chord and was repeated and discussed through the national media. And when news of Amazon’s paltry tax returns were made public a few weeks later, the same national media were already warm to the subject and reports were very much in bookshops’ favour.”
She added that the new report comissioned by the BA to evaluate the economic contribution of British bookshops will go "hand-in-glove" with “hand-in-glove” with the representations the BA is making about unfair competition.