Thursday, March 13, 2008

more face-out titles equals fewer books

So Borders has announced plans to increase the number of titles they display face out on their shelves. It's called "a radical move" by The Wall Street Journal (syndicated here). The biggest shift we'll see is that Borders will carry fewer titles, and there's some speculation that this is bad for small preses. This type of news is hard to react negatively to, though, because the reality of book sales is already so harsh. We sell a lot of books outside of the major chains. Lots and lots on, maybe because we have such web-savvy readers. That's been our own explanation, anyways. And that lots of our authors have blogs that direct readers to buy online.

The saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover" is soon to become obsolete and old-fashioned if all of this catches, and it probably will. Because the whole face out thing is all about luring people in with the attractiveness of the cover. John Deighton, editor of the Journal of Consumer Research, says in this article, "People don't want choice, they want what they want. And what they want is sometimes constructed for them in the store by the attractiveness of what's on offer."

This is why we care so much about our covers. I've heard that consumers take 1.2 seconds to scan a book's cover and in that time they decide whether or not they want to look at the back cover or table of contents. 1.2 seconds. And that might be a conservative estimate.

This post isn't postulating anything. This business just flat-out scares me sometimes. All I want is for people to buy more books. More Seal books in particular, but generally just more books. Maybe the face-out program will increase book sales, I dunno. I have to say it feels like another step toward fewer and fewer people making all of our buying decisions for us. I know I shouldn't be so naive, though. We're pretty far down that road already.


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