Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where's my Book? "Outliers" is Available Again

We've been out of stock on Outliers, but our buyer Jason told us that stock should be coming in today now that the publisher has reprinted. We sure expected a lot more shortages this holiday season. A slowdown was expected, but publishers all through the fall selling season cautioned us that many of their big books would have no reprint. Sometimes we buy extra books to cover this but when everybody has the same story, we obviously can't afford to carry that much inventory.

In 2007 we got burned when we took to heart threats that I am America (and So Can You) would not be reprinted. Because it has color, it was going to come from, well, someplace in Asia (see below for more on this). The book went out of stock, we rejoiced, and then a huge shipment became available.

And why would that bother us? Because we overordered, throwing out the just-in-time philosophy that most booksellers need nowadays to balance cash flow. We also expected to increase sales, hoping our competitors would run out. They didn't.

What happened for Holiday 2008? There was the Outliers shortage, which I mention above. For two other titles, Dewey and The Elegance of the Hedgehog, we decided to take very strong stands on the titles and continued to have stock for the holidays.
13 Clocks took us by surprise. We really liked this Thurber reprint, and even featured in our Schwartz Select section, but when Daniel Pinkwater recommends a title, demand skyrockets. The book has still not come back into stock, but we've got orders on it and we'll have it at the same time as our competitors, including the online ones.

Why do some books take so long to reprint? Standard books with text or small photo inserts are generally still printed in the United States, but glossy kids and gift books are generally printed in China. And before you contact me berating me for not shopping local, we're a bookstore that is responding to demand and we cannot request where our books are printed. Maybe that's a topic for another posting.

In the end, business was so bad for retail that most predictions of shortages of top titles did not happen. Happy ending? I think I would rather have been chasing more titles.

Tom Campbell eloquently questions David Steitfeld's head-turning column about buying and selling books over the internet that was in the New York Times. Though I devoured it on initial publication, I have found myself too exhausted to write about it. I pretty much agree with everything that Campbell says. Read it here. He'll also link you to the original piece.

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