So browsers on both sides of the Atlantic aren’t necessarily checking the prices on Amazon when they use their mobiles in bookshops: some of them are looking to see if Pidgey, Magikarp or Rattata are hiding in the cookery department. Bookshop sightings of the little fellas so far include Blackwell’s in Oxford (well, why else was the Norrington Room created other than to host Zubat and pals?) and Book Garden in Bountiful, Utah which was delighted to discover it is a Pokéstop (where, as you know, ou can pick up Pokeballs to throw at your quarry).
Pokémon Go now joins 3-D Magic Eye, Top Trumps, Beyblades (Beyblades – cool!) and – of course – adult colouring books in the long history of crazes that sweep the nation and garner masses of free publicity in the media in the process. It’s even better if there is a publishing programme attached, which in the case of Pokémon there is. Scholastic is reaping the benefits so far.
Adult colouring books have of course helped contribute to the healthy figures for print both here and in the US, though they are by no means exclusively the reason. Joe Wicks and Paula Hawkins have helped too, as has, in the US, Dr Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go, which sounds like it could be about those Pokémon characters and their hunters.
US bookstores have had a good first half of 2016, according to the US Census Bureau. Although spending was a little down in May, the first five months of the year have seen sales some 6.1% up over the same period in 2015. Also, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) noted that 20 new bookstores opened between April and June.
Interesting comments from Dutch publisher and entrepreneur Hermann Buss, author of the self-published Bestsellers and Badsellers: Towards New Strategies for Publishing Books. He told Publishing Perspectives: “Prices are stable [in the Netherlands], but in my opinion the average price is still too high compared to our neighbours.” But then he almost seemed to contradict himself by adding: “It’s hard for a country like the Netherlands to develop its own literature as it is difficult for writers to get a large audience. But it has always been this way. Fixed pricing helps to protect Dutch-language publishing”.
Some are calling for fixed prices in Poland to halt the decline in independents and to stop the price war between chains Empik and Matras which former publisher Marcin Skrabka – he was with Wolters Kluwer – believes is damaging both companies. Plans to legislate on prices are on hold following the change of government at the last election, and the government’s decision to offer free K-12 textbooks in 2014 is estimated to have cut at least 40% of the textbook market in the country. He says: “Lots of small independent booksellers just disappeared from the market as textbook sales had accounted for 50% of their annual income.”
With the Brexit vote highlighting questions of national identity, Anne Sebba’s must-read history of the part women played in WW2 from resistance to saving the nation’s art — Les Parisiennes: How the women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) shows how things aren’t always as they appear. Edith Piaf was well rewarded for performing to German audiences in Paris and returned from performances in French POW camps in Germany with photographs of herself with as many prisoners as possible. These photographs were then used in forging ID cards to smuggle back on future visits.
In a turbulent week, Nermin Mollaoglu and Gizem Ozguven of Istanbul’s Kalem Agency, said they were drawing strength from their writers following the failed military coup and its disturbing aftermath. Mollaoglu highlighted an interview with Turkish novelist and PEN member Burhan Sonmez, author of Istanbul Istanbul in which he says: “I am very hopeful for the future of my country, otherwise I would have left. I’m still here; people like me are still standing here. We will carry on our calls for freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and also peace. We need these more than ever before.”
The role of independent bookshops in difficult times was also handsomely articulated by ABA president Betsy Burton of the King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City. ‘Even after we know who the bombers or shooters are,’ she wrote, ‘and what may have motivated them, there is so much left unexplained, so much at once terrifying and puzzling. Where better to go for answers, or, if not answers, shared bewilderment, than to an independent bookstore?”
Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.