In June, Waterstone's rightly received a lot of negative publicity in the U.K. for demanding that publishers pay special fees if they wanted to see their books featured in prominent displays in Waterstone's stores. Now it appears that a similar tactic is being tried in Australia by the Angus & Robertson chain.
AUSTRALIAN publishers are outraged at a demand by Angus & Robertson that they pay to have their books stocked by the chain....
The Australian Publishers' Association said yesterday its members were angry and distressed by the demands, which range from $1500 to more than $45,000.
Publishers have until August 31 to pay up, or A&R will stop ordering their titles....
A&R general manager Dave Fenlon said: "As a commercial business, we have the right to make decisions about which suppliers we do business with. "In our negotiations with suppliers, we are the customer. Unfortunately we cannot work with every publisher in Australia, particularly if the relationship is not commercially viable for us."It is not unusual, of course, for large retail chains to squeeze manufacturers for the lowest wholesale price that they can get. Wal-Mart is notorious for doing exactly that in the United States and some companies have been squeezed so close to selling to Wal-Mart at cost that they now refuse to supply that giant retailer.
It is unlikely to ever happen, but it would be fun to see what would happen if every publisher in Australia refused to pay these fees to Angus & Robertson and the chain suddenly found itself with empty shelves. That brings up the key question of whether book buyers are willing to pay a little more per book in order to help sustain a healthy publishing industry. I doubt that the average book customer thinks much about the link between publisher and retailer when he stands at the cash register holding the latest masterpiece from James Patterson or Danielle Steele.
But readers of book blogs are not average book customers. Do you think this kind of thing is right? Would you be willing to pay a little more per book purchase if it would help to end the spread of this practice?