A Bibliophile’s Christmas Fantasy

December 18th, 2017 by Madalena Cardoso | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on A Bibliophile’s Christmas Fantasy
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Winter is here. There are magical light displays on the streets. Christmas markets are open. There is mulled wine and cinnamon treats, and large crowds of people wearing colourful reindeer jumpers shopping for presents. Snow has already made an appearance, with gentle snowflakes covering everything in white in Stirling.

Indeed, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. And everywhere includes bookshops. For our Marketing Management and Communication module, we were asked to look at current bookshops’ practices, and so I went to Edinburgh and did a small tour. It was during my trip that I noticed how retailers have really outdone themselves this season by employing creative strategies and introducing sensory elements to entice customers, from decorations to special offerings and fun events.

In Princes Street Waterstone’s, in Edinburgh, a gigantic Christmas tree has been set up. Green garlands are everywhere. Book displays showcase a selection of interesting themed titles – classics, crime novels, new releases, and more – and there are many promotions taking place. Other chains such as Blackwell’s, in South Bridge, have devoted great attention to their store windows, immediately capturing a passer-by’s interest.

Independent bookshops, being smaller in size and naturally more flexible, manage to design more unique and memorable experiences. At Golden Hare Books (established in 2012 and located in the Stockbridge area), for example, there is relaxing jazz music playing in the background, free delicious mince pies and tea, and a wood-burning stove is on to keep customers warm. There is a pleasant incense aroma in the air and you can buy already-wrapped books with mysterious labels to surprise yourself for Christmas. There is also a Christmas “book tree” on one of the tables. Touch, smell, sound, sight and taste. The interplay of the five senses is quite clever, contributing to shape a cosy, familiar and welcoming atmosphere.

Booksellers are finding innovative ways of remaining operational in today’s extremely competitive environment. Although online book shopping is perhaps more convenient and cheaper, it is only in physical venues where one can experience such wonderful things. There’s quite nothing like browsing in a bookshop, especially during Christmas time. But, it must be said that, as a Publishing student, my opinion might be (slightly) biased.




Guest Speaker: Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s

December 5th, 2016 by emma_morgan | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s
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There were pretty high expectations for the last guest speaker of the semester, given the brilliant, funny and interesting talks that we’ve been treated to over the weeks.  There was also a problem of attention, with the impending last presentation of the year looming.  Angie Crawford, Waterstone’s Scottish book buyer, had a great deal to contend with in keeping our attention and interest.  She managed it easily, bringing samples of AI sheets and review copies ranging from the elaborate and well-backed to the…simplistic.

As a group of students hoping to make careers in the industry in which Waterstone’s is a major player, her career history was both interesting and encouraging, to see the passion and enjoyment that can exist from a career in publishing.  It was particularly nice to hear that it was at the University of Stirling, at another guest lecture, that Angie Crawford, inspired by and drawn to the field of children’s publishing, decided on her future career.

Her career followed the progress of the publishing and bookselling industry on a grander scale, working in the now-defunct Dillons bookshops, as well as Ottakers.  She worked in the industry through the process of digitisation and improvements in organisation that this brought, and acquainted herself with the Scottish market, typified by smaller-scales and a more fragile market than the London-centric industry at large.  From this interesting and varied career, Angie seemed to draw certain messages and principles out that had helped her in each role, one of which was, crucially, the importance of knowing both the market and the people in it, the customers.

The priority that Waterstone’s place upon engaging with their customers, and ensuring a ‘culture of friendly and knowledgeable service’ is the heart of their success, and this has come with the reinvention that followed their near-collapse.  James Daunt’s independent-minded influence was, according to Crawford, both immediately felt and transformative, doing away with ‘identikit’ bookshops and encouraging – sometimes reluctant – bookshop managers to take the reins and individualise their shops to the local customer.  This shift in philosophy, which was accompanied by major process and organisational rethinking, changed Waterstone’s for the better.

Angie Crawford, comforting fearful of publishing students everywhere, admitted to feeling under-prepared and uncertain of her suitability for her role as ‘Scottish’ Commercial Manager.  She shared that her main qualification for the post seemed to be that she was Scottish, and thus, in the minds of the London-based bosses, knew Scottish publishing.  Her reaction to this?  Like any good publisher, she did her reading, familiarising herself with the titles that sold, the titles that were loved and the things that worked in Scotland which might not work elsewhere.  It seems that the Scottish love a good murder – perhaps because it’s fun to say with our accent! – and crime fiction is a reliable high performer across Scottish bookshops.  However, our love for crime fiction aside, Scottish is not a genre, and Crawford noted that while her colleagues were focused on fiction, non-fiction, sport, etc; her role requires her to look wider, and often work hard to create cohesion between titles that span genres and which can seem entirely distinct from one another.

Angie Crawford has the experience to make any lessons she has to impart worth listening to, and she was able to pull out some key pieces of advice that she learned in her time in the industry:

  • Good relationships are more important than great deals – Book buying is a negotiation, but it is a negotiation between partners, and it is essential that both parties walk away with a workable deal, and their trust in the other party intact.  A chain like Waterstone’s might have the leverage to push for a heavy discount, but if this price means the publisher can’t afford to print the books, no one wins.
  • Keep an eye on the future – All of publishing is a business of planning ahead, and Angie frequently mentioned that the process of buying involves forecasting – or fortune-telling – what books people are going to want months ahead of time.
  • Sometimes, you just know – Angie mentioned that occasionally, it was just the feel of a book that was important, whether it felt right in the hand, opened easily, etc;  it isn’t an exact science and intuition is essential.
  • Go with your gut, but prepare to be wrong – Book buying has an element of gambling about it, sometimes a bet placed on an unknown author pays off when the stock sells out quickly, and sometimes the books sit on the shelf (or in the stockroom) and  haunts you.  Ultimately, it seems that a certain amount of bad choices are inevitable, but a successful book buyer reacts quickly and doesn’t get discouraged.

by Emma Morgan

Morven Gow, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17

November 7th, 2016 by morven_gow | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Morven Gow, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17
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“How brave of you.” “How inspiring!” “I’d love to do that – good on you!”
Reactions to news that I have signed up to be one of the first humans trying to grow spinach in a cloche on Mars? Or perhaps to an announcement that I am contemplating a fire-walk, swimming Loch Lomond, and cycling the world? Neither of those. I find myself a Hero for the Middle-Aged Worker simply by returning to Uni.
What has brought me here to study publishing at Stirling? I wanted to shake up my skills and go back to the future, to focus on writing. After 30 years planning and buying advertising campaigns, with some PR experience, working on campaigns for some of Scotland’s bastions of culture (National Museums, National Galleries, National Library), newspaper publishers, retailers, banks, whiskies, political, and public health campaigns, I thought I would brush up my writing skills to suit the digital age adding what is known in the trade as content marketing to the skills I could offer my employer and my clients. A quick Google brought me to the Publishing Scotland website, and information about a day course on the subject. But I wanted something with more depth. I read information on the site about PG courses in publishing, and although I discounted the idea at the time, a small persistent voice (coupled with the louder voices of my friends) kept asking, “why not? Books are a passion for you, and you love a beautifully designed hip posh mag”. After a meeting with the course director, Frances, the idea blossomed, I applied – and here I am, loving my new life as a student on a well respected course, thinking new thoughts, on a beautiful campus, with fellow students from all over the world.
Now that the course has begun, I can see that the Publishing Studies course will repurpose me for the next stage in my life – rather like a classic G Plan chair, reupholstered and reoiled.
Officially self-employed, I am a consultant for my previous company combining blog writing and communication advice with media planning and buying, and looking for some experience in book and magazine marketing from publishers before I graduate, with an eye to moving into that area as a consultant at the end of the course.

I can be found at@Morv60 on Twitter and at Morven Gow on LinkedIn

Visiting Speaker: Dr Sam Rayner

January 7th, 2015 by Callum Mitchell Walker | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Dr Sam Rayner
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On Thursday the 4th December we enjoyed the last visiting speaker of the semester, Dr Sam Rayner, the Director of the Centre for Publishing at the University College of London (UCL). Dr Rayner’s talk focused on her paper ‘Star Texts: The Next Generation’ in which she explores the dynamic modern world of publishing and its impact and potential impact on teaching and learning in society. Dr Rayner analyses the way in which publishers edit and package content for new readers and new markets, the shaping of the literary canon, and the emergence and significance of several types of ‘Star Texts’. Before beginning her talk, Dr Rayner pre-warned us of her use of Star Trek puns (which she admitted she had toned down), however the class was eager to hear about her research on ‘Star Texts’.

But what does Dr Rayner mean by Star Texts?

Dr Rayner began by expressing that throughout her academic and professional life (whether it be teaching, research, working in libraries or bookselling), texts and their status and consumption have been fundamental. This made her interested in observing how we read, keep, study and rate books. As a literary and publishing researcher, Dr Rayner recognised that certain terms related to texts with cultural standing—‘The Canon’ and ‘The Classic’, have “become elusive and complicated by two other means of quality control”—‘The Prize Winners’ and ‘The Book Club Recommendations’. Dr Rayner collectively calls these four groups ‘Star Texts’, and argued, “these texts create clusters in the impossible constellation of the research environment that they belong to”. This term, ‘impossible constellation’ comes from Prof. Ruth Mateus-Berr from the University of Applied Art Vienna, during a conference on artistic research, and she used the term to attempt to describe the “several contradictory methods, understandings and histories” that could be applied to artistic research. Dr Rayner believes that this ‘constellation’ was a particularly useful way of understanding how texts exist in the 21st Century. Her research therefore focuses on the tension between a literary work, and the responses to the literary work in question. Dr Rayner suggested that whilst the text remains unchanged, there is a constant transformative process of the work, born out of the interaction and response from each specific reader.

‘The Classic’

Dr Rayner went on to discuss importance of the transformative star text group of ‘The Classic’. These texts, Dr Rayner argued, are those that most commonly stand the test of time. But what makes a text a ‘Classic’? Dr Rayner pointed out that scholars have very varied views on this question. The ‘Classic’, academics argue, should arguably be “timelessly appealing” and “elevate its author to the status of a god”. Dr Rayner also added that ‘Classics’ can be very subjective, and one individual’s list of ‘Classic’ texts won’t necessarily be the same as that of another individual. However, we do find a curated ‘Classics’ section in a bookshop, and publishers for centuries have created ‘Classic’ lists. This type of text is chosen, designed and marketed by publishers rather than academics (not suggesting they are purely commercial products, however). Dr Rayner asserted that the ‘Classic’ should appeal to every type of reader. She also pointed out that publishers such as Penguin attempt to modernise by means of packaging, engaging with digital, and marketing these timeless texts.

‘The Canon’ 

Dr Rayner next went on to explain another type of ‘Star Text’ known as ‘The Canon’. The establishment sets this group for primarily educational purposes and to define identities within culture. This type of text exists to represent the view of the individual and the preservation of tradition. Dr Rayner went on to discuss how texts have become ‘canonised’ in education through curriculum and have moved away from chronological presentation, towards a clear genre focused syllabi of texts. ‘The Canon’, Dr Rayner believes is undergoing a time of extreme change, and the impact of celebrity culture and national feeling are determining the way texts are canonised in education. Dr Rayner also addressed the issue of whether or not students should be given a prescribed reading list, as arguably this is a means of industrially restraining the individual’s imagination. Perhaps a more effective system would rather encourage young people to love reading and get into a habit of it, Dr Rayner shared to the argument.

‘Prize Winning Fiction’ 

The next type of ‘Star Text’ Dr Rayner explained was the ‘Prize Winning Fiction’ category. Dr Rayner argued that in the modern world of publishing, being nominated for literary prizes quite often means being read or not being read by the reading public. Dr Rayner also discussed how effective creative writing courses are in the emergence of this type of text and the development of a synergy between academics, creative writing and publishing bestsellers. The question was also raised over what should constitute as a ‘prize winner’. Should it be by measured by unit sales or by its literary quality? Furthermore, who should decide on these status elevated texts? Academics, publishers or readers?

‘The Book Club Recommendations’

Following on from Dr Rayner’s previous group of ‘Star Texts’ was the final group of ‘Book Club Recommendations’. This group can also be a prizewinner, but experiences the treatment of being associated with a well-known figure or celebrity. In these cases, the power of an individual’s brand is worth thousands in sales of a title if they have been selected as part of their ‘book club’. This phenomenon arguably gave the book back its ‘social history’ and within these book clubs, the well-known figure(s) (such as Oprah or Richard and Judy) play an active role in choosing, recommending and associating themselves with a title. Dr Rayner described how in a sense these individuals act as mediators between the author’s text and the audience. Book clubs show more than any other type of ‘Star Text’ the tension between the cultural and the commercial that exists in the book trade.

Merely ‘Solar Flares’ or Eternal ‘Burning Stars’?

Dr Rayner developed her argument by observing the conflict between cultural and academic responses of texts and the importance of reader interaction and marketing campaigns on the success of these titles. In the vast ‘constellation’ of texts in the current market, Dr Rayner believes that grouping these ‘Star Texts’ helps us to identify what drives us when we choose what we are reading. The development of technology also makes the text organic, with digital transforming the way in which we read, store and share text. Dr Rayner’s paper raised several interesting debates on the textual environment and what defines a text as a ‘Star’ and indeed what cultural, academic and commercial forces play a part. By the end of Dr Rayner’s talk, we were ready to “boldly go where no researchers have gone before” and explore the future of ‘Star Texts’ and textual constellations!




Aidan Moffat and the Lavender Blue Dress

November 17th, 2014 by Lara Gascón | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Aidan Moffat and the Lavender Blue Dress
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On Saturday November 15th, the acclaimed Scottish singer-songwriter Aidan Moffat was in Waterstone’s Bookseller located at Stirling Thistle Marches Shopping Centre as part of the promotional tour of his first children’s book, The Lavender Blue Dress. It has been published by Cargo Publishing in time for Christmas so if you lack of ideas, this books could be a nice present for young children. The book is beautifully crafted with art by award winning illustrator Emmeline Pidgen and a removable double sided dust jacket with a ‘cut out and play’ paper doll. The book also includes a CD with the book read by Aidan and music by Bill.


The event started at 3pm and finished twenty minutes after. Even if it was not the most crowded book launch event I’ve ever attended, Moffat approached the few children that were in the bookstore, getting down to their level by setting on the floor. Then, he started to read the book. The kids listened to him, completely, attentively and in silence. There was a little girl that seemed particularly captivated bythe author’s words; eyes wide open, looking at the illustrations of the book while she played incessantly with the curls of her blond hair.


After the reading, the author got up and went sitting on a chair for signing copies of the book. Most of the people that were queuing were fans that bought the book because they wanted to have the opportunity to talking with the composer. The rest were parents that offered the book to their kids, but also wanted author’s signature and dedication. And the fact is that, as usually happens, the author’s personal brand seams to attract more customers than the book itself.

Even if Aidan Moffat is a long way from celebrities that are launching children’s books with the help of ghost-writers, is undeniable that being previously known as a singer catches the attention of future readers. I myself wanted to know more about what could have been the result of this book after knowing that the author was best known for writing songs about sex, drugs and death. “So please just ignore all the moods and the maybes, lift up your skirt and I’ll fill you with babies”, sings the singer that is writing for kids.

However, Aidan has crafted a sweet and heart-warming tale of family, friendship and the really important things in life. But he didn’t do it alone. Moffat told the media that the story was based on a tale he heard as a child:

The Lavender Blue Dress is a story my grandfather used to tell me and my cousins,” he said. “I used to spend every weekend at my grandparents’ and it was a story he told regularly. A few years ago I wrote it down and put it together as a story which I occasionally read live at gigs. I don’t know where my Papa got the story – I think he made it up. It was very simple and I’ve embellished it a bit.”

The Lavender Blue Dress tells the story of Mabel, a little girl who wants nothing more than a beautiful dress to wear to the Christmas ball. The crux of the story is that the family can’t afford the dress in question so they make it for the girl. As the author explains, it’s very much a story about love, and about love being more important than material items.


You can view the teaser trailer here:

Moffat says that he would like to publish further children’s books if The Lavender Blue Dress is well received, there’s a second one that he has finished and he has ideas for a couple more:

“The second one is about how to cope with your parents arguing, which I can imagine is something
every child has to deal with.”

Personally, I really like the moral background of the book. I have always thought that children’s books are a basic tool to teach and reinforce kids’ essential values as sharing, helping, being kind…And as I could confirm, Aidan Moffat can transmit this ideas in a charming piece, with catching and lovely illustrations that bring author’s words to life.

Source: Cowing, Emma, “Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat pens children’s book”, The Scotsman,, November 17, 2013

Visiting Speaker: Dr Simon Frost, Bournemouth University

November 14th, 2014 by Sarah Boyd | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Dr Simon Frost, Bournemouth University
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Simon FrostAs an extra addition to the Visiting Speaker series, Dr Simon Frost, Senior Lecturer in English at Bournemouth University, came to talk to us about his current research project. Entitled ‘Private Gains and Retailed Literature: Pathways to a Sustainable-Economic Account of Reading‘ (though Frost pointed out that his subtitle keeps changing!), this ambitious project is being undertaken in association with John Smith’s, the higher-education bookseller familiar to most students for their on-campus shops.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that Dr Frost’s project is quite a complex and, in some ways, esoteric one and that it is very much ongoing and developing, so at times it became a little difficult to take on all of the information he was conveying. The seven-and-a-half pages of notes I took during his presentation are testament to this! However, I’ll do my best to cover what he had to say.
First, Dr Frost outlined the aim of his project, to produce a defence of literature (the project is focused on fiction) in economic terms, rather than the cultural terms in which arguments for literature’s value are usually expressed. This was one of the trickier ideas to get our heads around but Frost put it in layman’s terms, saying that he’s trying to find out why a customer would choose to buy books, rather than booze! Essentially, his belief is that pointing to literature’s cultural importance does not mount a strong enough defence for the funding and resources allocated to it and that we require a discussion that engages with the economics of literature in sustainable terms or, in other words, attempts to discover what readers gain from the books they buy in more practical terms.
We then looked at the structure of Frost’s project, which is organised into three ‘threads’:
  • ‘theorisation’ – produce a model of how readers gain from books, bridging the literary and economic by investigating the idea that books meet intangible needs for readers.
  • ‘tuition’ – a number of students will be involved in the research for this project, particularly in compiling the results of an extensive survey, aiming for 750 completed surveys.
  • ‘professional practice’ – working in conjunction with John Smith’s, examine the shift from ‘bookseller’ to ‘book-based supplier of solutions’, in particular the move to provide new services based on outcomes/gains.

John Smith's BooksIn order to explain how he became involved with John Smith’s, Dr Frost gave us a potted pre-history of the current bookselling situation in Britain. John Smith’s has been around since 1751, so it has survived and responded to the major changes that have happened in the bookselling industry over the last several centuries, from the 1899 establishment of the Net Book Agreement (NBA) and its encouragement of dedicated bookstores, to the collapse of the Agreement in the 1990s which led to the downfall of almost all chain booksellers on the British High Street. More recently, the rise of online bookstores (themselves largely a result of the NBA’s collapse) has forced John Smith’s to rethink its business, as Amazon and its ilk have disrupted the traditional tutor-student-campus bookstore relationship. Their response has been to stop thinking of themselves as ‘booksellers’ at all and instead re-brand as a provider of solutions for students and Higher Education (HE) institutions. Indeed, their website is tagged as ‘John Smith’s Student Store’, with no reference to bookshops at all.

In effect, this has resulted in John Smith’s working with HE institutions to provide students with all the resources they need to successfully enter, negotiate and exit higher education. Their Stirling store, for instance, lists 15 departments, providing products from art supplies to bikes, mobile phones to university-branded clothing. They are no longer thinking about how they can sell the most books to students but about how they can meet all the needs that students might have, how they can become the main provider of solutions to students’ demands and problems (as well as aiding HE institutions to meet their outcomes). In this way, their rethinking of their business model fits neatly with Dr Frost’s project, as it relocates books as one part of a service that anticipates and provides everything that students will gain from appropriating. So, a copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is no longer just a tool for education and cultural influence but also a product that can be analysed and quantified in economic terms.

aspireFor the final part of his presentation, Dr Frost went into more detail about how the relationship between students, their HE institutions and this new incarnation of John Smith’s works. An essential part of this is the distribution of bursaries to students in England (introduced as a mitigating response to the raising of tuition fees). Universities receive a sum of money from the government and parcel this out to selected students in bursaries, often around £300, which are intended to widen opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds (and, ideally, to be spent on university-related goods and services, rather than down the pub, though we did have a discussion of whether or not the social environment provided by pubs – and cafes, equally expensive though perhaps less stigmatised – is a valuable part of the university experience!). John Smith’s have become involved in this process via their ‘Aspire‘ smartcard, which can be pre-loaded with the bursary money and limits what it can be spent on. This allows for a number of interesting features, from each card being tailored to its recipient’s needs, to facilitating data gathering and feedback to the institution. Of course, as several members of the class pointed out, this has some moral and legal implications, particularly with regards to privacy (the idea of tutors being able to keep tabs on whether you’ve purchased their reading list or not is more than a little Big Brother!) and this is an area that Dr Frost will be looking into as his study develops. At the moment, though, his main questions in this area are:

  1. Is the diversity of purchasing agency (i.e. those involved in the process of purchasing) now so great that it produces a break from the linear rational-choice model of purchasing?
  2. Do the limits imposed by the ‘Aspire’ model constitute an interruption of free will or free exchange? They limit the convertibility of one resource to another (the bursary can be turned into books or bikes but not beers) but do they also limit free choice? Such limits are common in the public world but how do they function in the semi-commercial and commercial spheres?
It was fascinating to hear about a project still in progress, with Dr Frost acknowledging that he is still in the process of gathering information and developing the theories and concepts that will form his ultimate conclusions. His observation that his ‘inner critic’ was working even as he spoke was one that I – and I’m sure most of us – identified with, but it’s reassuring to know that the pros suffer too. It was also great to feel that he was genuinely interested in our responses and in engaging in conversation with his audience – it’s always encouraging to feel that we’re being taken seriously by people already working! I’ll be interested to see the results of his project and how it shifts and develops as it progresses.

Publishing Scotland Conference 2013

March 22nd, 2013 by Emily Ferro | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Scotland Conference 2013
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University of Stirling Publishing students with a guest from Edinburgh Napier's Publishing program. Image credit to Publishing Scotland and Sandy Young Photography

On March 4, 2013 I attended the Publishing Scotland conference at the COSLA Conference Centre in Edinburgh with some of my classmates. It was an exciting experience to attend a conference with nearly 200 book publishers, booksellers, and other students to discuss some of the pressing matters in the industry. In addition to hearing from keynote speaker John Gordon Sinclair, who entertained the audience with his anecdotes, observing the trends in the market by Bowker, and learning the “20 Irrefutable Theories of Book Cover Design”, two aspects of the conference stuck out as quite memorable to me.

There are a few questions that are circulating in the air that everyone involved in publishing is asking. One of the big ones is where the high street book market is headed. We heard from a panel with representatives from both publishers and booksellers, and there was a unanimous agreement that things are certainly changing. Bob Kelly from Gardner’s Books made the point that bookshops have been changing since the introduction of book sales in supermarkets in the 1960s. He also believes that although there has been constant change, the current change to the bookshops is the largest we’ve seen.

The panel came to a few conclusions about high street bookshops. The first, suggested by Kelly, is that booksellers need to be a cultural hub in the community, and a place where people can come together to learn and share. Along the same lines, Neil Best from Waterstone’s suggests that bookshops need to offer something better than the easy, lazy online experience. David Prescott from Blackwell’s added that there is room for both online shops and high street shops, we just need to give customers a reason to visit and revisit shops.

The most influential comment made during the debate was that there is a disconnect between what people say they want and what they are buying. This is a good way of voicing what the recent sales statistics are showing. I have not personally heard anyone say that they want bookshops to close and for all sales to be made online, and that the suggestion is outrageous, sales still move more and more to online outlets. Even as a publishing student, the ease of use for online book buying is attractive, so it’s not so hard for me to believe that customers without knowledge of the struggling industry buy online without a second thought. There needs to be a more conscious effort to protect what we want, and if what we want is high street bookshops, then that is where we need to shop.

The second aspect of the conference that really struck me was the talk given by Lindsay Mooney from Kobo. I found this particularly interesting because although she was discussing pricing strategies for selling e-books, Mooney was also discussing the interactive advantages available with a Kobo e-reader. While there are benefits to having interactivity with reading apps for tablets, I find that the amount of interactive features available with the kobo may be taking things a step to far. While reading an e-book on the Kobo, any reader can see comments made by other readers and commentary by the author; they can highlight, tweet, and share to their newsfeed exactly where they are in the book, and tell friends whether or not the book is a worthwhile read. While I can see the value in this from a marketing standpoint, isn’t it more valuable to appreciate the book as just a book and not an opportunity to market every sentence? To me, reading should not come with so much noise. Perhaps I am just being traditional and stubborn, but personally if I want to share a book, I will tell my friends about it when I am finished and watch author interviews online in my downtime.

At the very end of the conference, the students at the conference were gathered together and had an opportunity to speak to a panel about any questions we have about the industry and suggestions for finding our way in upon graduation. It was a very useful session at the conference and I am grateful for it. Attending the conference was enlightening as a whole and a wonderful experience. A day well spent.

Faith, Hope and Charity

November 29th, 2011 by Helen_Lewis-Mcphee | Posted in Blog | 2 Comments
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Last week, the Booksellers Association hit out at charity shop booksellers, claiming that these retailers are afforded an unfair advantage in the industry. With certain exemptions from corporation tax, VAT and rates, and a staff comprising largely of volunteers, it is argued that charity shops benefit from a unique position within the trade with which less charitable independent retailers are finding it impossible to compete. The Bookseller reports an estimated 8000 such brigands are abusing this advantage, turning profits of close to £20 million from book sales alone.

With our independent and second hand booksellers in such dire straits, surely it’s time to call a halt to such blatant exploitation, and level the playing field a little? I mean, when those Goliaths of the online world Amazon first made noises about taking over their only real competitor, the Book Depository, it sparked national outcry and an OFT investigation at the implications this would have for fair competition within the trade. So why is it one rule for Amazon and another for Oxfam?

I do hope we’re not missing the point here.

BA chairman Peter More has accused Oxfam of “acting more like a business than a charity”, adding that this was “a concern”. A concern? Now, I’m as concerned as anyone else in the industry for the future of indie bookshops. When I have the time (and the money) to spend browsing their shelves, I like nothing better than to pass up the tempting discounts offered by Goliaths and supermarkets alike in support of our struggling book-retailing entrepreneurs. But I also choose to frequent my local charity shops, and I certainly won’t be made to feel guilty about it. I refuse to accept that charities turning a profit and conducting their businesses efficiently and professionally is a Bad Thing. Without their retail turnover, these charities wouldn’t be able to support their work against poverty, homelessness, animal cruelty, heart disease, and cancer, to which we are all indebted at some point in our lives.

When I go to an indie bookstore, I go there for the atmosphere, the ambiance, the whole experience associated with book buying that first attracted me to the industry as soon as I was old enough to spend my own pocket money. This is not the same reason I go into a charity shop. The customers who are spending their hard-earned pocket money and pensions in the charity shops are not the same ones abandoning their high-street independents in favour of a cheap read. And I believe I’m not the only person who feels this way. I have faith in the Great British bibliophile and their loyalty to local independent retailers.

Maybe we should be more concerned with the competition presented by the deep discounting and heavy marketing favoured by the chain stores, online retailers and supermarkets. Maybe, instead of lashing out at those businesses still turning a profit, booksellers could take a little more time minding their own. Maybe the indies should to take a leaf out of the charity shops’ books.

Helen Lewis-McPhee

From snuff and quill pens to 21st century bookselling…

December 5th, 2010 by Ina Garova | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on From snuff and quill pens to 21st century bookselling…
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Willie Anderson, the deputy chairman of John Smith & Son, gave a talk at Stirling University’s Centre for International Publishing and Communication recently.

The deputy chairman of John Smith & Son is a charismatic man – well-read, well-informed and well-spoken. For an hour he mixed funny stories from his days in the industry with astute observations about the changing face of bookselling and what the future holds for publishers. 

Mr. Anderson gave a brief account of John Smith’s development as a bookseller starting from 1751. This was when their first store opened in Glasgow, when snuff and quill pens were a part of their stock along with books. Then talked about how John Smith’s decided to concentrate on campus bookselling and exit the general market because they could not compete with the bigger chains.

He also explained why they’ve decided to open a bookshop in Botswana and the deal they’ve made with the university to encourage students to buy from the store. The students are given vouchers from the university, which they can spend on books and other educational resources in the bookshop.

The company has a similar arrangement with the University of East London where students, after finishing their first semester, receive an UEL Progress Bursary Card with £500 they can spend at the John Smith’s store.

Mr. Anderson also mentioned, of course, Amazon – the current threat to chain bookstores.In his words their marketing strategy is ‘brilliant’ because they appear to have everything, but this is not the case. Amazon relies on sheer volume to make a profit. ‘They’ve brainwashed you,’ he smiled, ‘but the sales going through the Amazon web page have been extraordinary for John Smith’s so far.’

 When asked how their website is working out for them, Mr. Anderson replied: ‘You need a website, it’s a good marketing tool, but the sales are not fantastic through it. It is not a very good website,’ he stated, somewhat apologetically.

 The future of bookselling? According to Willie Anderson, it will be interesting to see how the industry will develop in order to overcome the current difficulties in the market. It is a time of great change and publishers need to be increasingly receptive and flexible in regards to these new developments, he concluded.

Visiting Speakers 2010-11

November 8th, 2010 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speakers 2010-11
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Every year, we welcome to the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication a number of Visiting Speakers. Our speakers all have some sort of connection to the publishing industry, and some of our speakers have previously studied at the Centre.

This semester’s Visiting Speaker programme includes Louise Franklin (Publishing Sector Coordinator, Skillset), the literary agent Lindsey Fraser (Fraser Ross Associates), Willie Anderson (Deputy Chairman, John Smith & Son), Marion Sinclair (Chief Executive, Publishing Scotland and a graduate of our courses), Adrian Searle (Gutter Magazine and Freight) and Paula Morris (author and Lecturer in Creative Writing at Stirling).