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A rollercoaster ride in the world of book sales

By / November 25, 2008



Today's Wall Street Journal is reporting that publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are putting a temporary freeze on the acquisition of new books due to the overall economic slowdown.

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"I have never seen a freeze before," Amy Williams, a literary agent and partner in New York-based McCormick & Williams told the WSJ. "I don't know how that model perpetuates itself if you aren't bringing in new product."

The company's textbook division – its largest arm – will not be affected by the freeze, but the trade and reference division (which publishes about 400 titles a year) will, at least for the moment, not be bringing in new products.

Meanwhile, book industry blogger Robert Gray interviews book retailers around the US about their expectations for "Black Friday" (the enormous day-after-Thanksgiving shopping binge) and suggests the day be rechristened "Gray Friday." Booksellers, he finds have mixed and modest feelings about the upcoming shopping season. But by no means are they all talking doom and gloom.

"The economy's been a friend to no one," says Russ Marshalek of Wordsmiths Books, in Decatur, Ga.

But many booksellers are taking the long view. Roger Doeren of Rainy Day Books, in Fairway, Kan., told Gray that in his bookshop, "the day after Thanksgiving is a day to meet and greet our customers with a positive, helpful and thankful attitude and make that day, just like any other day, into whatever it will be; turning 'Read' into 'Black.' "

"The big picture," said Doeren, "is read in 365 days rather then the minutiae of one day."

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