9 February 2015

Ten Ideas to Save the Book Trade

Posted by John Clegg

Gloomy prognostications about the future of the book trade are ten a penny; what's missing is a hearty dose of out-of-the-box strategy. This ten-point plan would allow the industry to adapt to the changing marketplace, meet the challenges of digital while remaining end user- and creative-driven, and survive and thrive in the forthcoming period of immersive app-based leading edge disruption across all new formats to take its place at the forefront of the forthcoming frictionless international Knowledge Economy opportunity.

  1. In the future, all books should be named after their ISBNs. This would make it easier to search for things if it turned out you were typing the title in the wrong field by mistake, which would speed up queries and thereby reduce queue length.
  2. Most modern printers’ inks contain traces of heavy metals. These should be replaced with lighter metals (possibly lithium, which Wikipedia assures me is the lightest of all metals), reducing the overall weight of books and allowing booksellers to carry more books at a time when they’re doing the shelving. [POSSIBLE DOWNSIDE: Lighter books would also make things easier for shoplifters.]
  3. Authors should be assigned publishers on an alphabetical basis, with HarperCollins dealing with surnames A-C, Rack Press with D-E, Vintage with F-H and so on. As well as reducing the size of publishers’ slush piles, this would have the added bonus of almost certainly looking elegant on the shelves.
  4. Nick Lezard should review every book a week before it comes out. If possible, he should take his holiday in early January, so the inevitable gap in publication schedules comes as close as possible to the sales.
  5. All books should have glow-in-the-dark lettering on their spines, so we can find them even when they’re pushed to the back of the lift.
  6. Bookshops with cats should get a 10% discount from suppliers. [Natalia, Natalia, can we get a cat, please?]
  7. It’s a waste to have only 13-digit ISBNs when we’ve not used the earlier numbers, especially if the ISBN is doing double duty as the book title (see #1). The next book to be published should be ISBN 1, followed by ISBN 2 and so on. This would also make it easier to put books into order of ISBN, if you fancied arranging your shop that way for some reason.
  8. In the future, all door lintels in bookshops should be slightly higher than my head. This would stop me from banging my head whenever I go into the basement, which would in turn stop me from needing a cup of tea and five minutes sitting down complaining about the height of the door lintel, which would in turn reduce queue length and thereby increase product turnover in all categories.
  9. Customers should come into bookshops in a steady stream, instead of in bursts. This would reduce queue length considerably. An exception should be made for 5.30 on a Friday, when all customers should come at once and we can knock off early.
  10.  Colin Dexter should publish an Inspector Morse follow-up ASAP, as there is much debate in the Bookshop about whether the events in *Lewis* are strictly ‘canon’.