The UK is the worst country for protecting its high street chains, which are essential for the long-term health of the book trade, the chief executive of Hachette Livre has claimed.
Arnaud Nourry was speaking yesterday (12th October) at a c.e.o. panel at Frankfurt Book Fair. He said diversity in both physical and digital retailers was essential for the publishing industry.
"Without diversity we will not be able to support diversity in creation," he said. "We need to do whatever we can to support bookshops. There needs to be some sort of concentration on the retail side—it’s key for the future of the business and authors. We need to support retailers, particularly the chains."
He said bricks-and-mortar bookshops were still the best way of promoting titles and nothing has had the same effect as books on shelves and tables. The UK was the "worst example" of a publishing industry supporting its bricks-and-mortar retailers, he said. "That’s a situation we must avoid," he added.
Penguin Group c.e.o. John Makinson, who co-owns an independent bookshop in England, said buying books from a shop was an "economically irrational" thing to do.
But he added: "But we need to persuade [customers] to do so, which is doable." Publishers needed to continue ensuring physical books were of a high standard, he said.
"Retailers need to work with us and make improvements in supply chain management so we are not experiencing the same level of returns."
Makinson said he looked "with envy" at countries such as Germany and France, which had fixed pricing, but said there was no possibility of resurrecting the Net Book Agreement in the UK.
Nourry was sanguine about the economic woes sweeping world markets. He said: "We are living in a tough economic environment and this has an impact on the market. But this is just the cycle. Let’s keep our eyes on a little bit further down the road."