Sunday, August 17, 2008

Any questions?

From Peter Goodman, Publisher

Thanks to ace publicist and communications master Ari Messer, who has left SBP and will be pursuing a writing career. The only people who make less than publishers are writers! But Ari knows what he's doing and I'm sure will be using his deft sentences and great intelligence to entertain and inform us in some fashion or another for years to come. 
Which explains my I'm taking over the blogging, at least for a while. So as long as I've got the opportunity, let me do a publishing shout-out (absent a proper colophon) to Nina, Reiko, Chris, and Jaime. Hope you guys are all doing well.
It's been a wild year, to say the least. Yohan in Japan went bankrupt, and here in the US so did Cody's Books. We had family connections to both companies, and while we're not a part of either our future plans have certainly been affected. It's been hard knowing that a lot of good publishing people have lost their jobs and that an encyclopedic amount of bookselling intelligence and experience is gone or at best lies dormant.
     I've been reading a lot of gleeful grave-dancing slaps at Yohan. Good riddance to the greedy bastards, I think is the thrust of public opinion. Well, as a one-time member of the Yohan family I can tell you that these were all good people who loved books, not a bunch of rapacious merchants. The Japan market had special costs that probably many of you are unaware of. For example, because many of the bookstores had no expertise in English, the Yohan salespeople had to constantly visit store after store, trimming up the shelves and counting stock. Every book imported had to be removed from its shipping carton and have an inventory tag hand-inserted in it because that's what the retailers insisted on, even though by all accounts it is in practical terms unnecessary, thanks to computers and barcodes. Return rates were high. And as you know, Amazon was pushing big discounts, and fuel charges were soaring (and are you aware that most Yohan stock was flown in from New York so that materials reached Japan soon after publication in the US?).
Look, I'm no apologist for Yohan. Obviously, they did a lot of things wrong. But you need to look at the bookselling industry as a whole and how it's changing. And also look at how consumers demand cheaper and cheaper. Everyone says they're in favor of independent booksellers and independent publishers, but in the end many of us shop at Amazon, Walmart, or wherever we think we can get the best deal. With gasoline in the US topping $4 a gallon (yes, I know that's cheap to you folks who live in Belgium), you can't blame people for stretching their dollars and trying their best to survive. Yohan, and Cody's, are in some respects just another Darwinian casualty.
       Well, as long as I'm blogging here for a while, if anyone has any questions for me about publishing, Stone Bridge, or what's up, just leave a comment here. 
     And I'm always interested in the next big thing. Any trends out there you think we should know about?


Susan said...

I was sad to read that Yohan had gone under (even as a former book buyer of imported English books in Japan at retail prices); and I appreciated your comments. /Susie Schmidt in Boulder

Anonymous said...

Here in the UK it's always been difficult to get imported books at reasonable prices, so I really admire the Yohan team 's efforts to make sure readers could get their books.

In this world of easy access and easy downloads, it's easy to forget that nothing made by humans is actually free - someone has spent time, energy and creativity on a product at every stage, and surely in common humanity we have to agree that each contributor deserves their reward?

Our rich society is built on the labours of many. As a great thinker and humanitarian once said, the labourer is worthy of his hire, we are still a long way from enlightenment. I hope all those Yohan people find new work and can use their talents again.

Anonymous said...

RIP Cody's

I guess it's onto Moe's...or Pegasus.


It won't be the same