IP1T3S3   Procedure for bookshops

IP1T3S3 Procedure for bookshops


The start of a new academic year is a challenge
for booksellers. Lee Rogers talks to one major book store manager. Jenny Farrow, you’re the manager of Dalton
Books – and you sell an awful lot of books to students, don’t you? Yes! We do. How do you manage to make sure that you’re
going to have the books students need when all the new courses begin? Basically, we make preparations long before
they arrive. Like all other major book retailers, we have
a database of information, and using that, we contact course convenors in May and ask
them to send us their booklists. How many books are we talking about? For one course? Yes, as an example. An average course requires about 30 books. We ask lecturers to indicate whether a book
is what we call ‘essential’ reading … you know, the students simply have to get it … or
whether it’s what they would term ‘recommended’ reading or whether it’s just a supplementary
text that they tend to refer to as ‘background’ reading. What about predicted buyers? It’s not a perfect system unfortunately. If a lecturer tells us that he expects us
to sell 100 copies of a book, we know that we could actually sell anything from 50 to
150. That’s why in practice, when it comes to ordering,
it’s a lot safer to ao bv the previous year’s sales figures – if that’s possible of course
… if we’ve sold the book before. We also build other factors into the equation
including the type of course that the books are for, the students’ year group and a measure
of our own judgement. And these criteria make a fairly accurate
guide? As accurate as we can be, yes. What about the publishers? Do they take an active role in promoting new
books? Certainly. The academic and professional publishing market
is worth about £700 million a year, so publishers go to some lengths to make sure their books
are known. The standard procedure they use is to mail
out catalogues to lecturers or colleges and universities, that’s been the main form of
promotion for years. Now, of course, they can also post details
of new or revised works on websites. Some even go so far as writing individual
letters to the appropriate lecturers in order to let them know what’s coming up. The lecturers then contact you if they’re
interested … That’s right. The publishers send us – the book sellers
– ‘inspection copies’. Lecturers can then get a free copy and decide
whether it’s going to be suitable for their course. And how does it work with the students? What are they looking for and who helps them
most? I think lecturers are best placed to understand
the students’ needs. Often the critical issue is what represents
value for money for students. This is more important than price per se. Do students actually buy books before they
start the course? Apparently a large proportion of students
wait to see what they need. Students have a firm idea of what constitutes
a good book so they tend to give themselves time to look at all the options before making
a choice. They tend to go for books that are clear and
easy to use. Often the texts that their lecturers recommend
turn out to be too academic and remain here on our shelves. Well that was Jenny …

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