Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kicking The Hornet's Nest

Yesterday, Francine, Alexander and I popped into the Chapters in Ancaster as part of our regularly enjoyable family browse of books. (When there's a bookstore nearby, you can't keep the three of us from being drawn to it like moths) It was the perfect thing to do on a rainy afternoon after having just seen a matinee How to Train Your Dragon.

It's always fun to visit the Chapters that I used to manage, all those years ago. And I have to admit that the recent Indigo Kids renovations they have done to the store make it even more of a family destination. (Though I do have a particular fondness for the original Chapters kids sections that featured a storytime central area - that's just nostalgia getting in the way of progress in my mind, because the new sections are brighter and more attractive and still have lots of hands-on stuff for kids to check out)

While browsing the new release section I had what I like to call one of those Margaret Laurence moments.*

*(There's a scene from the novel The Diviners that has stuck with me all these years. Morag, as a young girl, comes across a dead animal and, as Laurence so beautifully describes, on a level far removed from reality, imagines herself poking the dead animal's eye with a stick. I've always loved the way Laurence says that -- like picking up a live wire, it's one of those bizarre thoughts you have, something you think about, can imagine yourself doing, but would never actually do.)

In any case, I had one of those moments while looking at The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.

A lot of attention has been paid this past week of Indigo rushing this hotly anticipated new novel to their stores across Canada and putting it on sale on May 14th despite the official release date of May 25th and the fact that virtually every other bookseller in Canada didn't even get their shipments yet.

In a nutshell, it was a shrewd business move, but a dirty one.

Though there was no official embargo on the title from Penguin Canada, I still think it was a blatant violation of what I would consider a "gentleman's agreement" on honouring street dates for the more popular books.

That's why, when I was standing in the store and looking at the big display of the title, I considered, on a level far removed from reality, taking all copies of the book, one by one, and hiding them behind the remainders and under the gifty merchandise, and behind random barely browsed shelves in the store.

Then, once every single copy was hidden, I would sit at the adjascent Starbucks and sip a latte while enjoying watching customers complain that there were no copies of this hot new book available.

You know, give them a taste (however small), of their own medicine. Show them what it felt like to be one of the retailers losing out on sales of one of this season's most anticipated hardcover releases -- to have customers complain to you about something you couldn't control, about a completed unexpected surprise attack.

The practical joker in me thought it would be funny.

Then the thought left my mind, and I browsed some more.

I am, after all, not going to sink to that level.

But still, the thought makes me giggle in a mischievous sort of way.

Sometimes I wish I could play dirty like that. Sometimes I wish I had the guts to kick the hornet's nest.


Lys said...

While I admit Indigo's tactics are grossly 'bad form', one has to admit that it is justifiable - why should any bookseller be required to allow product to sit on a shelf becuase of some artificial "release date", when the customers - their bread and butter - are willing to buy it now?

I have already read, re-read and passed along my (passed along) copy of this book, thanks to the fact that it was released in the UK some, oh, 2 YEARS ago.

So my money has bypassed both Indigo AND made a mockery of the publisher's release date, because of the simple fact I live in a Global society.

The book industry needs to modernise it's thinking. Customers like myself, that spend thousands on books every year (I'm not kidding, I'm an addict) are not willing to wait for release dates that are arbitrarily decided, when they can get something simply and efficiently from a region that had an earlier release. Or Online.

Mark Leslie said...

I agree with you, Lys, about the state of the global society. The whole publishing/bookselling industry is still working under a pre-20th century territorial environment, despite the fact that customers can shop virtually anywhere.

We do need to change the way this works, thinking about the book lovers out there and getting books (in whatever format) to them quickly and efficiently rather than out-dated distribution models and "artificially" imposed territory models.

That being said, this case is unique because of the Larsson book being released in the UK 2 years ago -- but the book nerd in me quite loves the fact of the same release day for a hot new title in every market around the world at once (a la the grand events surrounding the last few Harry Potter books) - THAT made the global "release date" of a book, fun and exciting and a community event where everyone could participate and be part of the excitement.

Lys said...

And for a Children's book, I agree. Global release dates are fun and exciting (for the children). I don't think it's going to convert any non-readers long term (and the midnight release was a parental nightmare), but it was fun and sweet.

But KTHN is merely the next in a series, and the release date didn't even coincide with the release of the movie (which would have made sense).

I don't think the publishing world will do much changing until something drastic happens - case in point the industry "Agency 5" group-hug-for-iPad-and-profits that they STILL haven't resolved almost 3 months later.

And now, back to your regularily scheduled long weekend! :)

Anonymous said...

I've heard some people suggesting the third part of the Larsson trilogy is not as good as the earlier ones. There are doubts, but which book can give me insurance it won't disappoint me. The reputation of the author (his death has increased my curiosity) is huge, so may be the book would be worth the money. By the way, has anybody bought the book from I have heard they are offering the highest discount among the bookstores. Let me know if it is correct.