A post about bookstores that will probably bore you

Des has some typically accurate commentary on this bone-headedly wrong article about bookstores. I would like to expand on the "soon, we'll abandon Amazon.com in favour of individual publisher websites" point with an analogy to real-world bookstores in Japan.

In Japanese bookstores, some types of book are usually organised by publisher first, then author -- in particular, 文庫 (bunko, roughly equivalent to paperbacks) and manga.

This makes sense for manga, because most are collected editions of works that are serialised in the manga magazines, who in turn know their readership well. If you mostly read Shounen Sunday, most of the comics you buy will probably also be from that magazines, so it makes sense to put them all together.

(Exception that proves the rule: "Indie" comics that did not first appear in periodicals are often in a whole separate section... divided by author.)

Organising bunko this way is less sensible, except for special imprints focused on a particular type of book, like "classics" or "thrillers translated from English", where one might indeed care who the publisher or editor or translator was. The case for separating general fiction by publisher is much weaker. And many bookstores are gradually recognising this fact and instituting the more progressive and customer-friendly system where general fiction bunko are all thrown together and arranged by author, publisher be damned.

In other words, Japan has one foot in Sutherland's magical wonderland where readers occasionally know and care who published the book they want. And yet the number of bookstores carrying books from only one publisher is remarkably small. It's almost as if people are willing to pay a modest surcharge per item in exchange for convenience, time and the ability to browse and search and compare easily! Why, I think these "stores" might actually catch on!

Popularity factor: 3


Pretty good example of culling any facts that ruin the truth he's going for. There's so many ways to attack that, but to go for just one point: it ignores how a lot of publishers tend to stay within certain niches and keep to themes. And as good as a publisher may be, people still crave variety eventually. It'd be like finding out your local fruit stand decides they will only sell apples. Great apples, but that's it.

I don't think so, Mr. Sutherland...


I also don't really understand his point about the two for one sales being a bad thing. Does he want the book industry to sell a lot of books, or not? Sheesh. Tescoisation. Speaking as someone who often "loads his cart" with books, I can confirm that I do not think of them as a commodity. I agonise about what goes on that cart! I can't afford EVERYTHING I want!


I know what you mean. I wouldn't have room for my bed if I got all the books I wanted.

That and some pesky creditors after me.

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