Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Link Couplet

I always say such things as this headline, and then include more information and the headline stops making sense and I hit "publish post" and I probably look like an ass. So if this post ends up with a dozen links, just understand that was not my initial intention and move on - though passing links don't count, as I'm referring to two main (article) links. As an Editor, I'm quite focused on details; as a blogger, I'm usually quite rushed. If someone would only pay me to write this stuff, I could really clean this blog up!

Anyhow, the first link is to a New York Times piece on Seattle, by Julie Bick. This was a "most popular" article for a day or two, so forgive me if it's old news. The article was in the Business section, so it rightly gives a bit of insider dirt on bookselling, explaining how three companies in the Seattle area are largely controlling reading tastes in this country: Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco. I know, can you believe it?!

Amazon is not a surprise, but hearing this detail is somewhat creepy:
The “editorial team” there, a group of four men and three women, mostly in their 30s, constantly reviews books and recommends its favorites. Computer programmers create suggestions based on algorithms of what people have bought in the past.
That sounds like a fun job. Who are these people? It brings to mind This Film Is Not Yet Rated, in which director Kirby Dick exposes the people behind the American movie. But this has something more: algorithms.

And we all know about Starbucks and there books. What I didn't know was this:
With suggestions from the William Morris agency winnowed down by a three-member team, which may review up to 100 books a week, Mr. Lombard puts the final stamp of approval on the single book Starbucks will feature in 7,000 stores.

William Morris?! Does someone actually think they're objective? Bizarre.

And I just can't get interested in Costco. These warehouse stores are too much - too much soda, too many paper towels, too big a carbon footprint, etc... Too much. All the same, the article's profile of Pennie Clark Ianniciello was pretty fun.

I heard about the other article - an annoyingly private WSJ piece by Jeffrey Trachtenberg - from today's Shelf Awareness email. It's about Borders face out strategy. I'll just reproduce Shelf Awareness' information about the article from today's email:

The Wall Street Journal offers a long feature--face out in its own way -- about Borders's decision to display "as many as three times the titles as in the past" face out. As reported here last week (Shelf Awareness, March 5, 2008), the new approach has led to sales increases "in the double digits" and has led to the removal of 5%-10% of the average store's titles--many of which sell only one copy a year in each store.

Among new information: the change will be apparent in most Borders stores within six weeks and be most noticeable in categories like children's, food, cooking, travel, art and photography but less so in fiction. Still, at its "new concept" store in Ann Arbor, Mich., Borders is "testing a special display that highlights covers of classics from Charles Dickens and Jack Kerouac, as well as movie tie-in titles such as Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men."

At a typical Borders superstore, the reduction of inventory will be between 4,675 and 9,350 titles out of about 93,500. Borders said customers at its new concept store had the impression that more books were available. The Journal speculated that the change could "make Borders vulnerable to a marketing campaign from Barnes & Noble that promotes its own vast selection. The average 25,000 square-foot Barnes & Noble superstore stocks approximately 125,000 to 150,000 book titles, and the chain says it has no intention of cutting back."

Interesting to note the possible move by B&N, which gives me some hope. Surely Americans will find more selection more appealing... right? But then really, is it worth celebrating the idea of more B&N spreading like a rash across the country?

There - there's your two. Now back to news on Gov. Eliot Spitzer in NY.... [SNORE]

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