There were healthy quarterly results for HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, with revenue in the fourth quarter at HC up 20%, and sales at S&S up by $1m in the second quarter ending 30 June 2018. AJ Finn’s The Woman in the Window was cited as contributing to the healthy HC figures, while at S&S a title first published in 1953 was mentioned by CEO Carolyn Reidy as helping the adult group. Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 performed well, aided, of course, by the HBO film released in May. Incidentally, that film had a chilling twitter line: ‘Fact. Fiction. It all burns.’
S&S is also looking forward to the release of Bob Woodward’s FEAR: Trump in the White House next month, which it hopes will be its own Fire and Fury. Industry voices critical of the current administration continue to speak out. The American Booksellers for Free Expression recently sent a letter to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders concerning reports that the White House had barred CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from covering a press event on July 25.
Concerning the same incident, the US Authors Guild issued the following statement: ‘Democracy cannot exist without a free press that has unfettered access to information from all levels of government. The Trump administration’s decision to ban a CNN reporter, Kaitlan Collins, from a White House press event after she questioned President Trump on his relationship with his former attorney Michael Cohen is a clear violation of that tenet. No president should be allowed to exclude members of the press for asking tough questions—for doing their job.’
The seriousness of the economic situation in Turkey continues to have ramifications. It was first brought to the wider attention of the publishing community by Nermin Mollaoglu at Istanbul’s Kalem Agency. With a trader at the city’s Grand Bazaar describing the Turiksh lira as behaving “like ice in hot weather”, she said: “This is Turkey’s reality now and we would like you to consider offers from Turkey in the light of these facts. There might be delays and postponements on payments due to these reasons”.
Her call was backed by the president of the Turkish Publishers Association Kenan Kocatürk who said: “International publishers should abandon the advance payment system on licensing or should accept a small advance payment based on sales reports, to show solidarity with the Turkish publishers they cooperate with, during these hard times.”
Canadian chain Indigo, which has more than 200 stores in Canada under various names (eg Chapters and Coles), is on course to open its first store in the US, in Milburn New Jersey in late September, an indication of its confidence in physical bookselling (coupled with an online offer too).
Although overall revenue for the first quarter ending 30 June fell by just under 1%, Indigo CEO Heather Reisman said this was due to the closure of some underperforming stores and a renovation program. She pointed out that same store sales within the period were 2.4% above the same period in 2017 and that the company was investing for future growth. “Based on the tremendous response to our new concept stores and the growth we are seeing online, we are confident the period of investment will solidify our position as a valued retailer.”
Still with Canada, a group of indies is exploring the idea of resurrecting the Canadian Booksellers Association which operated for more than 60 years before it became absorbed into the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) in 2012. A steering committee of indies has been established with one commenting: “The RCC experiment wasn’t what we needed – we were just a tiny voice in that huge organisation. I think we lost our identity as Canadian independent booksellers.”
More encouraging signs in physical bookselling, both local and global. Congratulations to Andy Rossiter – one of the Waterstone diaspora – who, with his wife Victoria, is opening their third bookstore, Rossiter Books in Leominster, Hertfordshire. It will join their stores in Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth in south Wales, and brings a physical bookstore back to Leominster after more than five years.
Meanwhile, in China there is more news of 24-hour bookstores. A report in China Daily says that ‘this summer’ Beijing has 11 bookstores that are open 24-hours. Eleven 24-hour bookstores! The paper doesn’t specify whether this is just for the summer, or permanently, but even so it is a pretty amazing commitment to physical bookselling.
Finally, congratulations to Steve Alten, whose 1997 novel The Meg has finally made it to the big screen in all its entertainingly absurd glory. It was first published by Doubleday and then in the UK by Headline Feature whose MD at the time, Amanda Ridout, had an excellent two-word summary: Jurassic shark.
Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.