Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, June 06, 2005

Da Vinci Flinchy

I usually avoid The Wall Street Journal like the plague. It isn't that I don't like the paper. Actually I think it has some fascinating articles but I just don't have the time to read another paper. Friday's Journal is always a temptation though because the Weekend Journal section is pretty hard to resist. What usually tips me over is a good article in the first section and this past Friday's paper did it again. Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg's article was simply must reading for any booklover. Entitled "Quest For Best Seller Creates a Pileup of Returned Books," it referred to the book biz as "an industry gone mad," and the details seem to prove it. In the last ten years, book returns have quadrupled from 200 million dollars to a whopping 800 million. The article told of a Time Warner warehouse with twenty million unsold books, two to four million of which will be deemed unsaleable even as remainders with their fate being recycling. And that's just one publisher!

One of the most fascinating parts of the article was the long journey a book takes until it is returned to the publisher. In an example cited, books were shipped from a Time Warner warehouse in Indiana to a Barnes and Noble store in Marina Del Rey, California. After they remained unsold, they began a 2,800 mile journey back to Barnes and Noble's national distribution center in New Jersey (about seven miles from where I live). Barnes and Noble then sent the books on another 700 mile journey back to the Time-Warner Indiana warehouse. From there, they will eventually be sold as remainders and go on yet another journey, some of which will obviously be going back to Barnes and Noble yet again.

The subtitle of the article was: Hoping For a Da Vinci Code, Publishers Flood Stores. One can only wonder where this business is heading. It's pretty doubtful it'll have a pretty ending.

In related matters, there is a great piece in the latest New York Times Book Review (Cash Up Front) which tells what publishers have to do and pay to get their books prominently displayed in a bookstore. I guess the little guy just doesn't have much of a chance today. Maybe we can adopt a cause and do a little of our own impromptu display work on a title. Might be fun.

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