Some Scandinavian books I am looking forward to reading

As an avid follower of Karen’s Amazon lists and Euro Crime blog, I am eagerly awaiting several novels and keep checking them out on Amazon, which then obligingly keeps reminding me about them. Despite the windy weather, summer must be nearly upon us because several of these tempting books are finally about to be published. Among those that I am keenly awaiting are:

Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason, translated by Anna Yates and published by Harvill Secker, who currently have a very good list of translated crime fiction. This Icelandic novel is the seventh in the Erlunder series (the first two have not yet been translated but reviews of the rest, several by me, can be found at Euro Crime). Along with Vargas and Camilleri, Indridason is a favourite among the Euro Crime regular reviewers. In Outrage, the investigation is undertaken by Det. Elinborg as Erlunder is away. I hope my favourite depressive will make more than a brief appearance, though.

Misterioso by Arne Dahl, translated by Tiina Nunnally and published by Pantheon. As the blurb puts it: “The first novel in Arne Dahl’s gripping Intercrime series—widely considered to be one of Sweden’s best—Misterioso is a penetrating, dark, and absorbing introduction to this acclaimed author’s world.” Arne Dahl is the pen name of Swedish literary critic and novelist Jan Arnald.

Until Thy Wrath be Past by Asa Larsson, translated by Laurie Thompson and published by MacLehose Press. This Swedish novel is the fourth in the Rebecka Martinsson series. The first three titles, beautifully translated by Marlaine Delargy, are among my very favourite crime novels (see my Euro Crime reviews). I’ve had to wait a while for the fourth novel owing to a change of publisher, but I am sure the wait will be worth it. Two strong female protagonists (a financial lawyer and a police detective) and journeys into the dark secrets underlying “respectable” society and family lives – perfection. (The publisher has not listed the translator on the Amazon entry, to its shame.)

The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, translated by who knows?* and published by Hodder and Stoughton. Another Icelandic series, this one about witty lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir, her predilection for mysteries and her complicated but warm family and (attempted) romantic life. Reviews of the first three titles can be read at Euro Crime. *It is very remiss of the publisher not to list the translator on its website or on the book’s Amazon listing. There is a big, silly promotional sticker on the cover, but no mention there or in the bibliographic details of the translator. The first novels were translated by the late Bernard Scudder (1 and 2), Anna Yates (2) and Philip Roughton (3).

The Quarry by Johan Theorin, translated by (I guess!) Marlaine Delargy and published by Doubleday (another publisher with a black mark from me for not listing the translator). Johan Theorin is in my opinion the best Swedish crime-fiction author writing today (and perhaps the best crime author from anywhere?), he is certainly in a different class to “hyped” authors such as Stieg Larsson, “Lars Kepler” and Sissel-Jo Gazan. This book is the third in his loose series set on the island of Oland. My reviews of the previous two titles (both CWA winners) are at Euro Crime.

The Caller by Karin Fossum, translated by K E Semmel and published by Harvill Secker (the only publisher among this book collection that bothers to acknowledge the translator in online listings, though gets a black mark here for the sticker on the front cover comparing this author to Jo Nesbo – polar opposites!). This is the eighth in the Inspector Sejer series: the first has not been translated from its native Norwegian but reviews of the rest (some by me) are at Euro Crime. These novels are not “crime fiction” but rather seek to illuminate some aspect of human psychology and failing. I also highly recommend Fossum’s standalone novel, Broken, which would be a perfect introduction to this marvellous author.

This list is not comprehensive (of course!) but highlights some of the books I shall definitely be reading. Some other Scandinavian offerings that are not quite out yet I’ve already been lucky enough to read in proof – reviews of these will be appearing at Euro Crime over the next few weeks or months: The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt (translated from Swedish by Tiina Nunnally); The Dinosaur Feather by Sissal-Jo Gazan (translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund); The Hypnotist by “Lars Kepler” (translated from Swedish by Ann Long); and Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner (translated from German by Anthea Bell; the book is set in Finland). I’ve also recently reviewed on Euro Crime some very good new titles, including the superb Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen (translated from Danish by Lisa Hartford) and The Gallows Bird by Camilla Lackberg (translated from Swedish by Steven T. Murray).

Start the e-revolution without me!

Last week the New York Times looked at the deal that the popular self-published author Amanda Hocking signed to have some of her books produced the old-fashioned way. It’s a good piece, but perhaps even more interesting is the blog post by Amanda Hocking herself, explaining why she signed the deal given that she is making so much money out of selling her books herself. The bottom line is that she is paying the publisher to do the things that take her an enormous amount of time (marketing, editing, cover art, formatting, etc) so that she can do what she wants to do most, which is writing. It’s a maturely argued post and well worth a read. Many of her previous blog entries attest to the amount of time and effort Ms Hocking has spent on being her own publisher, on functions that she has now (in large part) outsourced. (Mysterious Matters has recently posted on the value of “traditional” publishing, a lot more than 99 cents per book.)
On the same theme, but a different author and approach, Lee Harris of Angry Robot books describes on Future ebook blog how he came to publish a novel by Adam Christopher, essentially via a Twitter relationship. Again, it’s a great post and well worth reading as an example of how an author can constructively use social media to become published. Even though the “Twitter” headlines are appealing, note that this deal did not come about overnight! Rather, it seems, the author acted in effect as his own agent, and the rest of the story is quite traditional.
Not the end.
Neither of these two examples signals the “end” of book publishing. Both these authors have struck deals because they are writing good books, and have convinced a publisher of that fact. Very many people are publishing their books themselves, over the past few years as print on demand or e-books on sites such as Lulu, and more recently via Smashwords in a range of e-formats for platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle, allowing them access to a potentially huge ready-made universe of people searching for books to read. If you enjoy reading science fiction, “erotica”, horror, about the paranormal, fantasy, or non-fiction along the lines of self-help or business success, your range of choice has never been better!
For any discerning reader who has a necessarily limited number of hours a week in which to read, the idea that “more is better” is simply not true. Book publishers provide a filter for what they see as the “best” books. I choose what to read based on a mixture of factors, such as having liked an author’s previous novel, coming across an interesting debut via one of the book websites I regularly visit, trusting a publisher’s output, reading reviews, and so on. I would be very unlikely to read a book because it is on the “top 100″ list of books available in Kindle format for 70 pence (or 99 cents), however many people have awarded a particular example 5 stars. Of course, in today’s economic climate there are many good authors who are unfairly not published, particularly if their first couple of books have sold modestly, and this is a pity. But it also has to be said that from the readers’ perspective, there are more than enough books being published to last anyone several lifetimes.
Peaceful coexistence.
For authors, I do not think it is right to suggest there is a war between “indie” (self-published) authors and those who have been published by an “external” publisher. This post at Kindle review sets out the terms of the publishing revolution as it sees it – that there is an unfair monarchy of publishers which is ripe for the French revolution to hack it down. I disagree. I am pleased that anyone who has written a book can now not only publish it him or herself but also promote it via hugely powerful sites such as Amazon. I am pleased also that some of them can make good money at it (though many others will be lucky to sell half a dozen copies). But I would not be pleased if I had no way of telling (other than by enthusiasts’ 5 star reviews) who, other than the author, had judged that the book is objectively interesting, or whether I’d be reading something that has been professionally edited. The publishing industry is not perfect; publishers annoy me intensely by practices for e-books that hamper the reader, such as agency pricing and nonsensical geographical rights restrictions. But publishers offer us readers a great service, producing engrossing books at a price that is usually very reasonable (compare the cost of a book with that of a cinema, theatre or concert ticket).

Some thoughts about restricting e-readership

Those of us (and our numbers are increasing rapidly!) who like to read in e-format often bemoan the way in which publishers sell the "rights" to their books on a regional basis hanging over from the world of print as the only reading medium. Of course, print readers (myself included) also find it frustrating not to be able to read a book after perusing reviews of it, if one does not live in the "right" (righted?) region. But for the e-format (including digital audio), this restriction seems even more pointless.

Bernadette, in an excellent post at Reactions to Reading, put her finger on one reason why this regional  division is a no-win for publishers – piracy, which as everyone from the CEO of the E-reading_women major publishing companies down to the youngest kid on the internet block, admits occurs on a massive scale. (Never by me or anyone in my house, I am of the honest but frustrated quarter of content users.)

I have two "hats" that I wear in the context of this debate. First, as a reader, I want to read a book as soon as it is published, not wait for some artificially imposed geographical business model. In the world of scientific research, this is the norm. When a paper is published, it is published – people argue about subscription vs "author pays" or the size of the unit of publication, but the argument is how readers pay for access, not about whether one can access at all.  Second, my other "hat" is that I work for a publisher – not, thankfully, on the business side, but on the scientific journal/editorial side. So I can see at first hand the large amount of value a publisher adds to the raw material. In the case of scientific publishing, there is an incredibly large investment in the editorial selection process, for example. I am not as closely familiar with book publishing (though my employer is an internationally leading publisher of books). Even so, I can see the resources that are put into both print and e- (digital) books, and am well aware that this is considerable. (There are many other factors in addition to editorial and production costs, of course.) 

The point for the reader is not price, it is access. Based on my long experience of scientific publishing, it is not necessary to restrict access geographically in order to run a viable business. This is why news items such as these lose me completely -

Waterstones has removed from its website the ability for anyone outside the UK to buy e-books, with "no plans" to reinstate them.

WH Smith has removed e-books from people's e-readers. That is, people who have paid to download a book. The information provided to these paid-up customers is minimal.

The UK Publishers' Association last week agreed that it would restrict library borrowing of e-books to those who are physically present in the library. (See, eg, this Guardian piece.)

This last piece of news is appalling: "I can't believe the PA has declared war on libraries in this way" wrote Luton's librarian at the Bookseller website. Yes, indeed, the very point of e-books is that people who do not live near, or cannot get to, a library can now read! How ludicrous.

I understand concerns on the behalf of authors, and I understand that publishers want to stay in business (and booksellers, but that is also a slightly different story). I know that issues often seem more simple to those outside a situation than they are in reality, but what I am questioning is what we learnt years ago in the scientific publishing sphere – base your business model on some form of payment per download, not on deciding who can read the content based on where they live. The payment can be made directly by the customer (book purchaser) or library on behalf of its patrons, Ipadreader
or borrower (lending fee). Public libraries could also use a variant of the site-licence model in place at academic libraries, in which the price paid for the content is proportional to the number of readers of that content; as well as providing books and other content for free according to whatever criteria they choose (including providing out-of-copyright books free). 

The point of this post is simple – there are technological solutions in place in other parts of the industry for what is termed "e-commerce". Why aren't organisations such as book publishers and governments' library authorities exploring these to reward authors and publishers, instead of exploring technical means to restrict access to non-rights-holders and/or people who have not paid? To paraprhase Bernadette, even if not perfect, the former means some income; the latter encourages piracy. The former also gives the customers (readers) the message that the publisher likes, or even is proud of, its content and actively wants people to read it. (This Telegraph article, for example, is about the increase in library membership bought about by the e-format.) Those new readers might then go on to read more, instead of watching TV or playing computer games – that is, the publisher has a great opportunity to increase its customer base with this format. The latter seems to me bad for business, and provides a rather Scrooge-like image which can hardly be good PR for an industry that is under so much pressure in this era of "instant availability" and from Google Books et al.

I do hope that publishers' organisations will soon find a way to remove the geographical element of their rights arrangements – in their own interests as well as in readers'. We are living in a global community,  after all.

Alex Delaware investigates…..online

Investigation-poster Via an email from the author's UK publisher, Headline:
The latest Jonathan Kellerman book, Deception, is being brought to life online. Alex Delaware, forensic psychologist and the novel's protagonist is asking readers to help him 'solve' the murder at the heart of the Deception plot.

Using his own website Twitter  and Facebook profiles,  Dr Alex Delaware needs your help to solve his latest case. Find out more information and view the evidence discovered so far. To give your views on the case and the evidence to Dr Alex Delaware please visit him at Facebook and Twitter, where you can get to know the man behind the Ph.D. and be able to help solve the Deception case.
Deception has been reviewed positively at Sharon's Garden, and you can read more about the book and publicity campaign at Crawl Space.

Swedish crime fiction is not all like Stieg Larsson

Millennium Ever since the phenomenal, and continuing, success of the Millennium Trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, we have read numerous articles in newspapers and on the internet likening the output of other Swedish, or Scandinavian, authors to him. Increasingly, "blurbs" on or about newly published novels are explicitly likening the book in question to S. Larsson (recent examples include Jo Nesbo's The Snowman (Norwegian), Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Ashes to Dust  (Icelandic), Ake Edwardson (Swedish), Camilla Lackberg (Swedish) and Roslund/Hellstrom's Three Seconds (Swedish). I am sure there are lots of other examples.

 Let's put aside the obvious fact that an author from a region of the world does not by default write books that are clones of other authors from that region (is Martin Amis the next Jane Austen or James Patterson the next Edith Wharton?).  Let's also put to one side the publisher's motivation to attempt to emulate S. Larsson's commercial success by likening its own titles to his novels.

What are we left with? What elements do "define" S. Larsson and hence could be used to liken other novelists to him?  I'll list ten here but welcome further suggestions or contradictions.

1. Exciting plots with many themes: thriller, political cover-ups, financial scandal, Nazis, serial killer, thugs, drug dealers, lesbians, spies, police corruption, sex, detective agency, blackmail, evil doctors, tortured family history, bikers, gore, devious lawyers, bad businessmen, lots of very nice and principled women – it's all there. 

2. Unusual and highly sympathetic female central character who has been very badly treated so is justified (in the reader's mind) in a search for vengeance.

3. Campaigning journalism (what I call the nostalgia ticket!). Journalists expose financial, political and other wrongdoings, and the world cares. That is so nice, I wish the world really was like that, and I like being able to imagine that it might be – hence one appeal, for me, of these books.

4. The goodies are good and the baddies are bad.  The lack of shades of grey is not particularly appealing to me but I think it helps to make the books more widely commercial.

5. Each book is about the same characters yet is distinct by having a different theme. Book 1 is a locked-room mystery; book 2 is a fugitive drama; book 3 is a political spy thriller in the Le Carre mould.  This is the structure of other successful series, most notably the Martin Beck novels of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, that is, a tried and tested recipe for success and a classic structure that readers can recognise while enjoying the unusual settings.

6. Masses of detail, eg how to put a magazine together, or open an offshore bank account, that the average reader will not know about and which appeals to the "inner nerd".

7. The curiosity factor. The author's necessarily enigmatic life seems to fascinate people and make them want to read his books.

8. The books are written at an "easy reading" level while not being dumb. Hence they appeal to a broad readership.

9. The books have been made into films, which often boosts sales.

10. The books have won awards and been bestsellers in other countries before being published in English, which encourages people in the English-speaking world to try them.

I am sure there are other factors in the Larsson make-up, but the above ten are the ones that immediately occur to me. By this count, a standard crime novel such as a police procedural series does not qualify for comparison. Jo Nesbo is perhaps a little closer in that his police procedurals also have strong thriller, gory and historical elements, but to my mind there is no more in common between the two authors than there is between Larsson and a standard US or UK (or any) thriller involving a police investigation. And Yrsa Sigurdardottir? No point of comparision, apart 3 seconds perhaps from the fact that Liesbeth and Thora are both women. (But then, so is Kinsey Millhone or Hannah Scarlett.)

Perhaps the novel published after the Millennium Trilogy that comes the closest to it is Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellstrom. The cover has a big red banner across the bottom, stating in capital letters "The new crime sensation from the publishers of Stieg Larsson".

Factors in common:

It is long

It is one of a loose series, this time about a seriously depressed, ageing policeman and his colleagues and other contacts (eg a prosecutor).

It is very thrilling with a scorching pace, while being replete with minutiae about things the average reader will not know about.

It concerns corruption in many institutions and at  the highest levels, and lots of it. Paranoia is rife.

There is no equivalent to the morally upbeat and forceful characters of Liesbeth Salander and Mikhael Blomqvist, but the character of Piet Hoffman is certainly well drawn and intriguing. I think the reader is supposed to like him more than I did.

Part of it takes place in a prison.

The English publisher is almost the same (MacLehose/Quercus for Larsson, Quercus for Roslund/Hellstrom).

Er, it is Swedish.

Crime-fiction publishing in Argentina

The current (17 September 2010) issue of The Bookseller carries a feature on the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair (6-10 October), with a special emphasis on Argentina, a country in which 82.5 million books were published in 2008; 20,038 new titles were published in 200; and 4 per cent of new books are published in translation; and where there are 660 specialist bookshops. (Stats according to The Bookseller.)

Five Argentinian authors will be meeting delegates to the FBF, including Claudia Pineiro, a journalist and scriptwriter whose novel Thursday Night Widows was published in the UK last Argentina year by Bitter Lemon Press, and whose next, Forever Yours, will be out here in 2011; and Guillermo Martinez, author of The Oxford Murders (Abacus) and other novels.

Although there is apparently a strong reading culture in Argentina, economic calamities have had a negative effect, not least on import of books and on library, school and other institutional budgets. Martin Schifino, a writer, publisher and translator who lives in Buenos Aires (I've read his translations of Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar and At Close Quarters by Eugenio Fuentes, for example), describes the decline of the city's book-publishing industry, which for many years was ranked with Barcelona and Mexico City as one of the leaders of the Spanish-speaking world, but now can't compete with Spain. For most Argentinian authors, Schifino suggests that "cracking the Spanish market" is the main goal, as the country's own market can't sustain writers.

Bitter Lemon Press is singled out for its track-record in publishing many of the small list of Argentinian writers in print in the UK. The company was set up in 2003 to publish crime fiction and thrillers from overseas. Next year, six of the 50 titles on its list will be by Argentinian authors. Francois von Hurter, founder of the press, is quoted as saying "We love noir and we love dramatic locations, but we decided to give Scandinavia a miss because that's been done to death with the likes of Larsson and Mankell. So we looked at Latin America instead, and as we cast about, Argentina kept coming up. Buenos Aires is a totally seductive place and there's such an ebullient literary scene. It's a city of bookshops – like Europe in 1935."

Bitter Lemon's authors include the aforementioned Claudia Pineiro, as well as Rolo Diaz, Ernesto Mallo (who was recognised via the German translations of his work) and Sergio Bizzio (via rave reviews of French translations). 

Argentinian books I have reviewed include Thursday Night Widows by Claudia Pineiro, translated by Miranda France (Bitter Lemon);  No-One Loves a Policeman by Guillermo Orsi, translated by Nick Caistor (MacLehose/Quercus); and Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo, translated by Jethro Soutar (Bitter Lemon).

Any recommendations for good Argentinian crime fiction that is available translated into English would be most welcome!

A S Byatt on translated (crime) fiction

I enjoyed reading an article in last week's (21 May) Bookseller (apparently not online) about the Independent Foreign Fiction prize by A. S. Byatt, well-known novelist and director of literature of the English Arts Council. Although there is a big picture of this year's winner, Philippe Claudel (winning title; Brodeck's Report), the article was written before the announcement, print deadlines being what they are. Ironically, the Bookseller's announcement of the prize, and their picture caption in the printed article by A. S. Byatt, do not mention the translator, John Cullen!

Obviously, A.S. Byatt's piece is not about crime fiction. But unlike many literary pieces, which are above such a lowbrow genre, she embraces this little corner of activity. She writes: "The prize has seen a range 
Brodeckof genres develop in translation. Crime fiction entries have always been numerous and the presence of a dedicated award for crime fiction in translation – the Crime Writers' Association International Dagger – first awarded in 2006, is welcome."

On the role of the translator: …"the prize has given the translator's art more profile. Often a translator's contribution is hidden – almost as if publishers don't want to advertise that the book is a translation. We ask that translators are credited in any publication we fund, and we also support organisations like the British Centre for Literary Translation which helps writers to work closely with translators developing their skills".

Translated novels that A. S. Byatt highlights as being worthy examples of contemporary literature include Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses. Finally, a word for the publishers. A.S. Byatt writes that the majority of fiction in translation is published in the independent sector, and singles out for special praise our favourites Bitter Lemon Press, Arcadia and Serpent's Tail among others. (All but one of this year's shortlist were published by independents; the winner was published by MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus - the same imprint that publishes the Millennium trilogy of Stieg Larsson).

Read reviews of Brodeck's Report at Euro Crime, The Guardian, The Times and Reading Matters.

News of the winning title at Crime Scraps.

Discussion of Brodeck's Report by the Not the TV Book Group.

Independent feature on the winning book.

Independent fiction prize: long list.

Waterstone’s Quarterly interview with Ian McEwan

Solar_article  I enjoyed browsing through the latest edition of Waterstone's Books Quarterly ,which I was given at the checkout last weekend after spending vast sums of money on some volumes for someone I live with. The highlight, for me, was a Q/A with author Ian McEwan, the questions being by Waterstone's customers, mainly about his latest novel Solar (which I am so much looking forward to reading). Here is my favourite bit:

Q: What has been the biggest change in you as a writer in …35 years and what has been the biggest change in publishing?

A: The biggest change in me probably came sometime in the early 1980s – becoming a father, stopping writing for a while and then going back to write A Child In Time [is this or Atonement my favourite book by this magnificent author?] . A sort of shift took place around that time. [Me too.] As for publishing, I can only draw on my own experience. Publishing in the 1970s was still a rather dusty, gentlemanly affair. It was still the time of the long two-bottle lunch and accountants were of very little importance. Not much money was made and one distrusted any writer who sold more than a couple of thousand copies of a book. I don't think novelists in those times were the subject of gossip columns, either. So everything has become a little louder, a little more vulgar, a little more trashy, a little more celebrity-conscious, sales-conscious. Less sleepy and considerably more sparky. More fun in lots of ways.

Solar is reviewed in the current issue of Nature (28 April 2010). Read more about the book at the author's website.

Mysteries of the catalogue

I am slowly reading though the publishers' catalogues that I picked up at my recent trip to the London Book Fair. Although an increasing number of publishers are producing online-only catalogues, and one can only approve of this activity, I am always pleased to receive or get hold of a printed edition where one exists, for ad-hoc browsing.

Sunset  One of these catalogues caused me to smile quite a few times in its bizarre descriptions of its books. Here is a lovely example:

"Scrupulously honest Amish-born cartographer John Graef teams up with outlaw prospector and gemologist David Freeman in a ferocious race to be the first to find the treasure and solve the centuries old Tavernier Stones mystery." Sounds exhausting, and that's just the blurb. The author biography just below the synopsis reads "xxx xxx is a cartographer and gemologist. This is his first book." Delightful!

Later in the same catalogue, here is a description of a book in its entirety: "Could Dr Brian Eddy, plastic surgeon to the rich and famous, possibly be the Blonde Bomber serial killer? Packed with everything from homeless kittens to Mob connections, this mystery is messier than a chicken parmigiana sandwich." Er, that is supposed to make you want to buy the book? 

The economics of bookselling, based on a Saturday experience

Freeze I'm confused by the "3 for 2" ethos. I was walking past Waterstones yesterday (Saturday) and I noticed a big front-shop display of Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada, a book in which I'm interested on the basis of good  reviews at Euro Crime (by Norman of Crime Scraps) and elsewhere. Looking at the book and a few pages, I was even more interested, so thought I would buy it ("support brick and mortar stores", I was thinking). There was a "3 for 2" sticker on the book – at which my heart sank slightly as I have so many vast piles of books at home – but, gamely, I looked at the price so I could look for two other books of roughly similar. £9.99! Wow.

Undeterred, I searched the crime fiction shelves. I was mildly intrigued by Twisted Wing by Ruth Newman, a debut novel priced at £6.99 with an ecstatic blurb quote by Sophie Hannah. But, try as I might, I could not find a third book which I want to read soon. I looked for several books on my list, which were either not in stock or not on "3 for 2" offers. If I want to buy a book by George Pelecanos, for example, I can buy only one title in the "3 for 2" but no others. All the "3 for 2" books I found in half an hour were either books I'd read or books I didn't want to read. So, I went home without buying anything.

I checked out the same books on Amazon. Alone in Berlin is £4.98 in a Penguin modern classics edition. Twisted Wing is £4.18 in the same edition as on the Waterstones shelf. (I'm also keener on the book since getting home, having read Sharon Wheeler's review at Reviewing the Evidence.)  Other books I had looked at (not in the "3 for 2" offer) were  £2 or £3 cheaper than their in-store counterparts.

Freeze If I had wanted 3 particular books which Waterstones had in stock and on "3 for 2", the price would have been roughly the same as Amazon. But this was not the case, so I do much better by buying the books I want singly or in a personally selected bundle, at a discount price each, on Amazon.

I am not a book publisher or a bookseller, so I don't really know why all this foot-shooting is going on. My understanding is that the bookseller charges the publisher a premium for being included in the "3 for 2" offer, which allows the bookseller to offset the loss by selling at a discount and the publisher gains by selling more books via front-of-store promotions than if the same title was just stuck on the shelves. But aren't they both missing out here? If Waterstones sold all their books at, say, £2 off cover price, without forcing their customers to take 3 instead of 1, wouldn't they sell more books overall? I would have bought 3 or 4 books yesterday if that had been the case, whereas in fact I bought none because I could not create a bundle using "3 for 2",  and the prices of buying the 4 books in which I am interested worked out as about double what I would pay for the same books on Amazon. I want to support High Street bookshops, but not that much – because I can't help feeling that this pricing policy is not in my (the customer's) best interests based on personal choice/market forces, but rather is the result of some deal between retailer and publisher as to what I should be reading.