Gatekeepers

A friend who publishes books at a major trade publisher once told me that she had no idea why books sell, but that the hardest thing about the process was to get them into bookshops. And I guess it’s true that if someone sees a book on the shelves of their local bookstore, they’re much more likely to buy it. After all, not everybody reads reviews. (Although I suspect word of mouth is probably a good thing – and maybe word of blog too!) Which is a round about way of leading into a story doing the rounds of the Australian press about the new unauthorised Tom Cruise biography (written by Andrew Morton and published by MacMillan). This piece in the Age is typical:

Several large book retail chains were contacted byThe Sunday Age this week and asked if they would be stocking the book.Dymock’s, when first contacted, said they saw “no reason” why they would not be selling the book.But a spokeswoman later issued a statement to the contrary. “We take all accusations of defamation very seriously and as a result we won’t be stocking the book,” she said. 

 

Of course, the threat of defamation is  only one reason that a book seller may not stock a book. Ultimately, booksellers need not have any reason at all; as the front end of the book publishing industry, booksellers have the ability to nurture or deny; encourage or dismiss. In a century where the control of information sources is becoming more and more democratised,  the booksellers play a gatekeeping role that newer forms of distribution might change…

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