How odd that Swedish chain Pocket Shop should announce its plans to open three ‘Brexit and mortar’ stores in the UK just a few days after the Referendum. The stores are to open in Birmingham Airport and two train stations later this year. This is good news for at least two reasons: first, any physical bookshop is to be welcomed because they help discoverability of titles; and second, it could be argued that the announcement shows that there are outside companies willing to invest in the UK, despite those voices of pessimism following the leave vote. Which isn’t to ignore those voices, but to recognise that the result is the result is the result – life has to go on.
Still with bookshops, in Canada Indigo CEO Heather Reisman has coined a new word: ‘phygital’. The boss of the 200-strong chain told Canada Business: “As people and consumers, we are evolving. There are some people who will long for the old-fashioned dusty bookstore, but most people don’t. In the 21st century, people are ‘phygital’ – that is, they do some things digital and some things physical. So what role does the physical environment play?”
Like many independents here – and indeed, like Waterstones too – Indigo has expanded into ‘non-book’, the world of general merchandise, in a “re-imagining” of the “core bookshop experience”. It seems to have worked so far: revenue in 2016 was up 11%. The interview is fascinating: Reisman talks about how the company will have a changing set of “big ideas” which influence what it does. “So unplugging is a big idea. Early literacy is one. Eating real food is a big idea.” She observes: “Adult colouring books are a fad. But what’s behind that fad – the desire to unplug…”
The physical news keeps coming. Amazon is apparently planning a store and café in Manhattan, while in Luxembourg, English language chain Chapter 1 has opened a second store, a children’s shop called The Book Loft. And here in the UK, Penguin Random House CEO Tom Weldon is seeking ideas from staff on the design of their physical workspace, following the announcement that Penguin and Transworld’s outposts on the Strand and in Ealing respectively, will be vacated by 2020, when everyone will be brought together in Random House’s refurbished Pimlico HQ and a new location close by.
The good news for French publishers that the market was up in both volume and value in 2015 – by 3.5% and 0.6% respectively – was tempered by warnings from Vincent Montagne, President of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition), over the continuing threats to copyright and the “mirages” of digital and free access. These concerns were also raised at Book Summit in Toronto, a one-day publishing industry conference which looked at the implications of the changes to Canada’s Copyright Act which added education to the list of fair dealing exemptions that do not pay copyright royalties.” Asking why creators are not better protected, Canadian non-fiction author Heather Menzies described the situation as the “extinguishing of cultural heritage and diversity”.
Let’s imagine England were in the final of the Euros (yes, it’s hard, but try). How might this sound? “And here’s Peter James to get us underway with the first kick of the Final….” Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? But in the US this is effectively what has just happened. At the recent New York Yankees v Texas Rangers baseball match, suspense writer Michael Koryta threw the ceremonial first pitch in an unusual promotion organised by Little, Brown. The first 10,000 fans aged 18 and older were given cards for downloading a free ebook of Koryta’s The Prophet, and on 22 July a free ebook of Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath will be given to fans who will watch the author throw the ceremonial first pitch when the Yankees play the San Francisco Giants.
Finally, in a fortnight that seems to have produced many new words and phrases (‘Bregret’ for starters), PRH coined a new one in its video to mark the three-year anniversary of the merger: it talked about how the company is “multi-local”. It is interesting to note how the larger that companies become, and the more the industry becomes global, the more everyone tries to emphasise the small and the ‘community’ aspects. It’s almost back to Schumacher’s ‘small is beautiful’;and it was good to be reminded this week in the obituaries for Schumacher’s contemporary Alvin Toffler, that it was the latter’s Future Shock that gave us the now so familiar phrase ‘information overload’. Don’t we all suffer from that in this digital age.
Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.