Thursday, 22 July 2010

Complaints from readers & Libraries (UK)

Recently I've been having complaints from the reading public that none of my books appear on BookArmy. I was quite surprised as the web site has a good reputation. Sure enough none of my books appear on the site, even though they appear on Amazon, Google and other book sellers site. I've had a delve around and seen that there do seem to be gaps in the publishers they allow to be displayed on their site. Perhaps there is a bug in their publishers feed handling. I've made a couple of enquiries with them and they say that it normally takes a month or so for a book to reach their electronic catalogue. I don't think they are showing any bias towards any particular publisher, but it would be good for them to confirm that they don't.

In the UK it is very difficult for new authors to get books on the shelves of libraries. In many cases the selection of books to be displayed is not actually the decision of the Library staff. In many cases this process is outsourced to external commercial organisations. These external organisations have a choke hold on the supply of books to libraries. Their published "discount" rates demanded is often higher than 50% of the list price. In fact I've seen one set at 65% of list price. In that case they demand a £10 (list price) book is sold to them for £4.50. Deduct the cost of paper, printing and distribution and you see the profit(?) margin left to the actual publisher, The publisher might then give 10% of their margin to the original author for their royalty payments. You don't often get to see new author's on the library bookshelves as a consequence of this restrictive market. 

I've queried this with a couple of librarians at branch libraries and they freely admitted they have little control over what reaches the library shelves.  Apparently this 'outsourcing' saves public money. I doubt it. As a trial my publishers offered the books at less then cost price to the libraries. The publishers were turned away and told the library would only take books through their book sellers "regardless of cost".

Not good! The public are losing out and local librarians are over-ruled.


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