Muses From The Thought Tree

August 22nd, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Not long ago, we brought you a fine discussion about the new “upperbacks” and how they’re leaking out into the world. At the time, the story focused on the excuse being given for the new format: old eyes on old readers. Setting aside the absurdity of that for a moment, we turn our short attention space to the consequences of switching to this format.

Yes, we’re talking about shelf space. Adding several inches to the height of a book is going to cut into real estate. Wire racks will need to be adjusted to fit the new size. . .and unless we’re way off the mark (it could happen), this will ultimately lead to fewer available slots in grocery stores, drugstores, and other stores that utilize this type of rack. Anderson, the primary merchandiser of these markets, won’t be thinking of variety should this format take off. And retailers aren’t likely to think, Wow, maybe another four feet devoted to books would be cool. There will be even fewer chances for impulse purchases by consumers.

And we recently read somewhere that the test conversion of former Waldenbooks stores to Borders Expresses was so successful that even more stores will go under the knife. Expect more CDs and comfy chairs. Also fewer books. Chairs take up space.

For the record, these changes won’t hurt romance, mystery, or The DaVinci Code. Or rather, they’re not going to hurt the bigger titles or authors in these areas; midlist and below authors will feel the pain more. We spent this past weekend in more than a few airports and on more than a few planes. We saw a lot of people reading — and they weren’t just hitting the bestsellers. That’s not to say we peaked at titles and covers, but, yeah, we did. It leads us to wonder how one reaches a clearly reading audience even as shelf space shrinks.

And, no, not a single answer in sight. Just thinking with our fingers.

File Under: Square Pegs