Once again, The Bookseller provides us with an interesting snippet of news about the progression of the publishing industry.
"Despite the collapse of two of the world's largest high street book chains the book publisher Penguin lost only £36m in sales in the first half of 2011, while profits narrowed marginally. Digital sales made up 14% of its overall business, resulting in total sales of £64m at a growth rate of 128%"
Despite the collapse? That would be like saying that despite the collapse of Marks & Spencer, sales of woolly jumpers were down only 5%, or despite the collapse of Tesco, people have surprisingly not starved.
I think that what this demonstrates is that the major publishers have the upper hand with the book stores. Clearly, the majority of Penguin's profits were generated as a result of its own marketing, not because readers go into book stores and have a browse around. When a reader wants a particular book and they find that Borders has disappeared, they just go somewhere else. Let's face it, people haven't stopped decorating just because Focus has gone. Our local focus now has a sign on it directing customers to the nearest B&Q.
I think that this demonstrates that the major book stores are just a shop window for the major publishers. Mind you, that's what I've been saying for the past ten years.
The only reason that book retailers like Waterstones buy books from self and independent publishers is to prevent the likes of Amazon from owning that share of the market; a market that is fast growing. Let's not kid ourselves that they actually support authors who choose not to publish with the dinosaurs.
What Penguin have demonstrated is that the retailers can fight amongst themselves; it really makes no difference to the book market.