01 February 2005

I'm Shocked

… shocked, I say, to find out that there's dishonest sales reporting in the publishing industry. Now, if somebody would just point out the problems with "remainders," we'd have a stacked deck, too!

Of course, part of the problem is that most of what the industry reports as "sales" aren't. When you walk into a Border's, or a B&N, or Brentano's if you're a mall-walker, or a fine independent bookstore if you aren't, and plunk down your $6.99 (plus sales tax) for that mass-market paperback reprint, you're actually the only sale in question. The bookstore doesn't own the books on its shelves (with very rare exceptions); they are, instead, on consignment from the publisher. The industry is fond of calling placement into bookstores "sales," but since they're fully returnable and no money changes hand up front, it's really, really hard to see that. It's just a little bit less honest, and a lot less accurate, than TV ratings. That, too, is before we get to the dubious accounting for those returns in the first place, each of which is used to both keep from paying the author for this book and reduce payments to the author for future books.