Hughes & Hughes: It’s Anything But Simple


Over at MediaConact there’s a blog post that puts the blame squarely on high prices for Hughes & Hughes’ failure:

In the analysis of the failure of the business in the media today there is mention of high rents, and the move by consumers online as the main reasons for the closure of the chain. The truth behind the collapse is a little more simple. Their books were just far too expensive, with many titles being more than twice the price they are on Amazon. It maybe the prices were a direct result of the high running costs, but there is no way they could have survived by continuing to over charge customers.

Just before Christmas we wanted to buy 60 copies to the wonderful “Tribes” by US marketing Guru Seth Godin to send to customers as a thank you present. I phoned around and the price in Hughes & Hughes was €16 per copy. We ended up getting the books on for just €7.50 per copy. The price was the same on Amazon whether we were was getting one copy or 70.

Do you see now why Hughes & Hughes is gone out of business?

I responded because I really felt that the post was far too simplistic in its analysis:

I agree and disagree with you on this. On the one hand H&H had a real challenge on Price in that Amazon and other internet retailers have a very impressive price advantage. But that can be easily explained.

* Amazon get a much higher % discount from publishers than even a chain like H&H did. That is one reason for the price differential.

* Secondly H&H sell much fewer books and unlike Amazon couldn’t make up for cheaper prices by relying on volume sales, especially in a small market like Ireland (Amazon buys and sells internationally).

* Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, H&H had bricks and mortar stores which Amazon does not. When you add in the distribution network that a Bricks and Mortar chain imposes and the redundant stock it very quickly becomes obvious that the kind of expenses imposed by real world bookselling is what made up for most of the price differential. It was unavoidable.

BUT, and this is important, many independents simply refuse to compete on prices and are doing pretty well. They tap customer need in their locality and provide services that a chain or Amazon simply can’t. So Price alone is not the reason why H&H closed. It didn’t help, of that I am sure, but given the thriving stores that sell at the same price or higher, I think it’s the wrong focus.

Not a good weekend for the Irish Publishing and Book Trades

Things Publishers Fear: #2 ~ Google

The second part of my series about modern publishing over at

The database brings the reality of competition with EVERY SINGLE BOOK EVER PUBLISHED into sharp focus for publishers as new books face increased real challenges from books published 10, 20, 300 years ago and in every conceivable context, on a phone, laptop, desk computer, iPad, iPod, wi-fi enable device, anything that connects to the cloud and has a screen (not to mention an increase in POD).

Transworld Running A Literature Festival

The Bookseller reports today (19/02/2009) that Transworld will run a book festival featuring star authors:

LitFest 10 will be held in libraries across Hertfordshire from 25th March to 27th April. The event is being run by Transworld and Random House Children’s Books and will be promoted in independents such as Maher Books and Books@Hoddesdon, as well as local Waterstone’s branches.
As well as Child and Harris, other authors will include Channel 4 “TV Book Club” pick Belinda Bauer, John O’Farrell, teen authors Bali Rai and Anthony McGowan and S J Bolton.

This is a very interesting move and really highlights what a well positioned publisher can do to enable connections with readers outside of any social or online media. Why wait around for Hay or any other festival to invite your authors when you can rally a fine crop of excellent crowd pleasing writers yourself? The link up with independents is also a clever strategy.

I’m impressed and I hope it comes off for them. I’d expect to see more of this as publishers seek more effective ways to create audience engagement and to build lists and contacts.

Go Tell Declan To SELF-PUB His Book

Declan Burke has asked for reader feedback on whether he should self-publish his book:

The basic idea is that I set up a project with a total amount that needs to be raised (€2,570). I let people know where and how they can pledge their €7, and hopefully 367 people buy into the idea. If the amount is raised within a specific time period (three months, say), then your pledge is accepted and transferred to my bank account, and shortly afterwards you receive your copy of A GONZO NOIR; if the total amount isn’t reached in a specified period, all pledges are cancelled and it costs nobody anything, except possibly yours truly’s pride. For more information on the Kickstarter project, clickety-click here.
So there you have it. Any takers?

I’ve read Declan for some time now and love his style and think he has been unfortunate not to a much bigger star. Please go tell him to try this out and when he does, please pledge him some cash!


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Things Publishers Fear: No. 1 ~ Amazon


Despite the seeming victory of Macmillan in its battle to force Amazon to accept the new “agency model” publishers have a sensible fear of Amazon. Like all businesses that sell their goods to consumers through intermediaries, publishers are forced to subject themselves and their products to the requests and “suggestions” of the retailer.

Amazon controls a large portion of the online consumer connection to books. They may not be the best at this, but they are surely the biggest. They have been on top of pretty much every trend in publishing for some time: