Crazy, doomed, but slightly hopeful

This description could be applied to me, but on this occasion it is how Anthony Cheetham (chairman of Quercus and The Friday Project) is applying it to a publishing system out of touch with reality and inefficient, in his Bookseller column (15 June page 22).

He asks why booksellers aren’t making more money (in the UK). The chain stores are getting as good a deal as is possible from the suppliers (60 per cent discounts, return of stock for credit, and shelf space, as we know, billed to the publisher). The way Mr Cheetham sees it, there is too much attention given to the 1 per cent of books that are mass-market. "The industry’s big players are relentlessly focused on seeking out that fraction of 1 per cent, piling them high, and discounting them as deeply as they dare".

The craziness of this is that readers are not a homogeneous mass market, he writes, but a "complex series of layered and overlapping communities with different tastes and interests." It can’t last (hence the "doomed"). The internet is fostering special interest communities at an exponential rate; in the USA, mass market sales are greatly reduced, and in the UK, Borders is now looking at ways to restore autonomy to branches rather than to control from the centre.