Yes, But What Is The Relevance?

September 20th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

If there is one* universal truth, it is something like this: independent publishers and labels will always have distribution woes. The machinery is set up to accommodate the big guys. Last week, we reported on Imajinn and their Chapter 13 filing; this was, in part, because the cash going out the door exceeded the cash coming in. It wasn’t necessarily the result of poor business decisions. Book distributors, like most people who pay bills, don’t necessarily take the concept of “Net 30” very seriously**. The distributors will argue that they can’t pay until they get paid. The bookstores will argue the same. There is a cycle here, and it never ends.

The little guy, the shoestring-with-aspirations-to-be-a-rope operation, does not fare well under this system.

Yes, but what does this all have to do with iTunes other than the fact we’re celebrating our acquisition of a cute litte iPod? Everything. Just as the economic structure of these industries (the book and music worlds are closer than you think) don’t favor the small, neither do display opportunities. Larger publishers can buy (yes, buy) prime real estate for their books in the front of stores — if the store is iTunes, that doesn’t matter. It’s all about availability and prominence. Now, just like the consumers who head to their local independent for books, music geeks head to other sources as well (we use eMusic as our primary online soure). This system has worked reasonably well for as long as we have watched it — the problem, of course, is that wider exposure leads to more sales.

For a lot of reasons, it was smart of iTunes to enter into deals with major labels. They don’t require street cred (in the form of cool-but-obscure music) because the masses aren’t aware of what they’re missing. It’s the independents that suffer by being late to the game. Hopefully they won’t be shunted to the back of the store.

* – Like the weather, our universal truths are subject to change without notice.

** – Something we’ve always found interesting is that some businesses will go ahead and give themselves the benefit of the “pay in a timely manner” discount without actually putting in the effort of paying in a timely manner.

File Under: Square Pegs