Big names, price war top fall book plots
By Jane Henderson
POST-DISPATCH BOOK EDITOR
"We run the risk of seriously devaluing our product," Grisham told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Albert Greco, a professor at Fordham University's Graduate School of Business Administration and senior researcher at the Institute for Publishing Research, says Wal-Mart wants to become the "Wal-Mart of the Internet." Already the biggest real-world retailer, it is rattling its e-business swords at Amazon.com, he says.
"Grisham is a very smart guy," Greco says.
Although an online price war will help sell more copies of Grisham's "Ford Country," eventually it would hurt stores that carry thousands more titles than Wal-Mart does. It's the more traditional stores that stock older Grisham titles.
"What he's looking at is the state of book retailing," Greco says.
Before Grisham became well-known, he asked small bookstores whether he could set up a table to sell his first book, "A Time to Kill." They gave him the chance to peddle his product, and several million books later he no longer needs that table. But he hasn't forgotten those stores, he says. Wal-Mart may want Grisham, but it isn't going to give the next unknown writer a chance.
Erwin, of Main Street Books, says that with all the attention paid to the horse race, "anything that isn't big can get lost in the shuffle."
Although the availability of book outlets has increased, what they carry varies. Bookstores such as Barnes & Noble may stock about 170,000 titles. A discount store like Target may stock 14,000, and a club store, such as Costco, may stock a few hundred. In an effort to promote stores, Publishers Weekly dubbed Nov. 7 National Bookstore Day.
Greco expects online retailers to discount even more titles this fall, although perhaps not as low as $9.
But why discount books?
"The belief that people aren't reading is inaccurate," he says. "To assume this is a bad category is not true."
U.S. publishers expect to net about $10 billion this year. That covers just adult and children's trade books and doesn't include the extensive textbook market.
"They've been talking about the death of the book for a long time," Greco says. "The numbers don't seem to bear that out."