There are even more threads appearing online about the Waterstones story by Joel Rickett that I linked to at the weekend. It appears that this blog is not the only one having Waterstones staff posting anonymously for fear of retribution from their employer.
The issue of insisting that publishers pay for publicity of books will not go away quite simply because customers who come into bookshops want to be there. Those customers trust the professional bookseller to select the best books – or at the least, those that best match their taste – and on discovering that publishers are paying to have books put in front of them, customers are likely to simply shrug their shoulders and shop elsewhere. Customers do not want their next book purchase chosen by a programmed algorithm but want to hear that special word-of-mouth recommendation.
Great communities are formed around trust and this is why – despite the odds stacked against them – independents (like my shop) are still thriving. How can Waterstones expect to corner the market when they’re price-competing against Tesco and dispensing with the services of once loyal and very experienced staff? Some customers are already suspicious that booksellers receive commission for recommendations and stories like this help no bookseller, neither the large chain Waterstones or the independents. For the sake of the whole booktrade, this practice of taking marketing bungs should be stopped if the trust of existing customers are to be kept and not re-directed to supermarkets who make no pretence of only being interested in the money. Books are not cubic cans of beans.