Or Thoughts on Things E and More
People often ask how books get into the bookstore. Essentially, publishers print catalogs of their lists and send them to buyers (at the Co-op that would be me for adult and Sharon for children’s). We go through the catalogs, often at home, and mark them up. A publisher’s rep then visits in person or in a few cases, calls on the phone. At least, that’s how it’s been for years, with book reps., or travelers as they are sometimes quaintly called, a major source of publishing information, book gossip, and bookstore news.
With so much consolidation in the publishing industry, and the recession, a number of houses have let reps go, putting more bookstores on telephone sales and increasing the territories of the remaining reps. Being an industry prone to prognostications of doom, there has been much speculation amongst booksellers and reps. about the demise of the rep. When will the last one go?
Meanwhile, publishers (and agents and authors) have of late, become obsessed with e-books. Get two book industry people together and within 45 seconds, they will be nattering about e-books. No one knows the future, but everyone is scrambling to predict it first. At this year’s BEA, the industry gathering, there was so much predicting and hand-ringing going on that one would think Nostradamus had taken charge.
Between the recession induced cost-cutting taking place, and the obsession with all things e, publishers have begun to abolish their catalogs in favor of e-catalogs. Harper was the first, and did it cold turkey: one season there were catalogs and the next there were not. Others have followed. Many catalogs can now be viewed online in a shiny program called Edelweiss, invented by John Rubin. If you have the right inventory system, Edelweiss will talk to it, thus saving you hours of data entry work. If you don’t, well, your workload just tripled. Alas, we don’t but we do our best.
Online catalogs can offer a lot more than printed catalogs, with links, full color images, author interviews, trailers, price changes, up-to-date publicity, and more. But you can’t take them home and mark them up while stretched out in bed with your cat. You have to sit with your computer. And as we have all learned, clicking takes more time than turning pages. Still, no one is protesting much. After all, we book people are NOT Luddites; Chicken Littles maybe, but definitely not Luddites.
So imagine my surprise when I opened the box of catalogs from one of my favorite reps. Nanci McCracken, and discovered a hardcover catalog from Gestalten, the German publisher of design books. I do not think anyone has done a hardcover catalog before. It’s quite beautiful. The cover is green linen and beige board. Titles of books described within are impressed on the front and back. That’s right I said impressed. You can run your fingers over the cover and feel the letters. The catalog is a tactile experience, not at all e.
What do the folks at the Berlin-based Gestalten know that others do not? Germans are famous for their technological prowess so surely, they could make a state-of-the art link filled catalog if they desired. Or join Edelweiss. Instead they have made a catalog that begs to be touched.
With your hand.
Not a curser.
I began this as insider insights but as you can see, we are short on the insights here. But as the saying goes, these are interesting times. Posted by Suzy