Thursday, March 10, 2011

And they wonder why people shop online

Borders and Angus & Robertson down here in Australia are going through the same problems that they are everywhere else. Here they’re blaming it on online sales. I’m going to bring up a case in point and that may explain exactly why they’re not getting the business they want, at least from the growing community of SFF readers.

It’s not easy being an SFF fan in Australia. It never has been. You mention that you read the genre and you get blank looks most of the time. Once you try to explain you have to use something that has broken out of the genre to most people (eg: Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter) and then they either think you’re a role player or someone who’s never really grown up. I contest that Harry Potter is more than just a kids series, but I digress.

If something sells well enough, and by that I mean it has to best sell, then it may find it’s way into the mainstream stores, otherwise you have to visit one of the few speciality SFF stores, like Minotaur books in Melbourne. The only other way is to go online. I know I can buy e-books, and I do have an e-reader, but the range of SFF books available for legal download in Australia is depressingly limited, I can also go online and I do when I want something hard to get, but I’m a relatively old fashioned character and I like to go into a shop, find the book I want, pick up a solid copy of it and take it home with me.

Onto my specific example. One of the rising stars of urban fantasy is the prolific Seanan McGuire. I first encountered Seanan at Aussiecon, and seeing her there was one of the highlights of the event for me. After the con I started following her LJ and found out that she had 4 books in print (3 October Daye’s under her name, the 3rd was released just after the convention, and the 1st of the Newsflesh trilogy released under her pseudonym of Mira Grant. On that please read Feed, it’s awesome), so I went to hunt them out. I was lucky enough to snag a signed copy of Feed at Minotaur, but the Toby Daye’s were nowhere to be seen. In desperation I tried a chain, and lo and behold Dymocks in the city had all 3. Dymocks is the ONLY chain in this country that carries a decent SFF range and it has it’s own dedicated urban fantasy/paranormal romance section, at least the city branch does.

Being a relatively new kid on the block and steadily making her way as a mid list author Seanan is great about letting her readers know what she’s up to, especially with things like release dates. Her 4th October Daye novel; Late Eclipses was due out on March 3rd (that’s the US March 3rd, so it was probably March 4th down here in Oz), now I’m not stupid enough to expect it down here on day of release, although it has happened in the past with some titles, but I think a week is a respectable wait, if I’d ordered it online I would have well and truly had it. I tried Dymocks, nada, I tried Minotaur, no luck. My final port of call was Science & Swords. Science & Swords is this tiny little store in an out of the way arcade that only the truly dedicated even know about.

They had one copy left, as he rang it up the salesman remarked on how popular the series was and that they had already put in an order for more copies which should be arriving the following week, so why isn’t it and many other titles available for purchase in major Australian book stores within a week of release? I don’t care if it’s a publisher thing (Seanan’s publisher for the Toby Daye’s; DAW, is unlikely to have an Australian distributor, but considering that DAW is a subsidiary of publishing giant Penguin, which does have an Australian arm, these days, it shouldn’t be that hard to do) or a bookstore thing, but I’m getting fed up with it and I don’t believe I’m alone. If those at Borders Australia and Angus & Robertson wonder why they’re losing business to their online competitors this is one very good reason, the dreadful overpricing they engage in and the staggering lack of knowledge displayed by staff are 2 other reasons.

I thank the God of booklovers for places like Science & Swords. Thanks for listening. Now I’m off to devour Late Eclipses.

1 comment:

  1. Ranty Ranty McRant!!

    That being said, it's not just the SFF world that you can't find here. Trying to find the latest straight Historical (that *hasn't* been published by Philippa Gregory or Bernard Cornwell) is just as impossible, and there's not even the small specialty shops like the SFF have.

    I can't remember the last time I bought a new Historical from a physical bookshop (actually, it was probably a reprint of a Jean Plaidy from the remainder table at A&R), but I've bought loads from overseas.

    Annonymouse on the couch