Why JK Rowling’s New Book Might NOT Be A Boon For Booksellers

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of commentary about J K Rowling’s newly announced book along the lines of the tweet below(1):

The Bookseller also reported some great positive comments like:

Jonathan Ruppin, Foyles web editor, said: “It is clearly huge news, it is the talk of the office already. It will be the biggest selling book of that time, I am sure other publishers will move their books out of schedules to make room for it.

But the truth is there are reasons to expect that the book will NOT be a boost to booksellers. Many reasons in fact, but here are just four:

1) Supermarkets. Like they did with Harry Potter, it seems highly likely that supermarkets will attempt to attract buyers into their stores by selling the new book below cost. Such competition makes such highly hyped titles difficult to sell for independent booksellers and even chains have trouble competing with the likes of Tesco.

2) Ebooks. Well the truth is that booksellers will largely NOT benefit from ebook sales, rather Amazon, Apple and Kobo along with whoever sells the ebook editions will.

3) Online Sales. I suppose the online retailers will do well, but pre-orders, especially through Amazon and Amazon owned sites will probably be the key winner in this space, rather than through independent or chain bookstores.

4) The Economy. So J K Rowling will do well from this but in an environment where free cash is limited the likelihood is that the book will simply change purchasing patterns in the book trade rather than expand the market. Rowling’s big name will attract money and books released around the same time will do less well than they might have with the overall impact being neutral to moderately positive rather than massive. Thus isn’t, I stress, an attack on Rowling, simply the reality of how things go.

All told I’m fairly pleased to see Rowling move past Potter and I think it was wise to move publisher at the same time enabling a proper brand extension. There’s a big part of me hopes that I am wrong, but a bigger part that expects to be right!


(1) And I am not picking on The O’Brien Press here!

7 thoughts on “Why JK Rowling’s New Book Might NOT Be A Boon For Booksellers

  1. I find it interesting that ‘booksellers’ do not include supermarkets. Supermarkets have played an enormous role in expanding reading by bringing affordable books to those unable to afford the inflated prices of many modern titles and will survive long after we have seen the demise of most small bookstores in the next 5 – 10 years.

    I find Mr Rippin’s comments a joke. What is Rowling’s biggest reader segment ? Will they be interested in this new book ? I think not. It will have a high profile launch but if it isn’t good it will sink very fast imho.

    Rowling’s new title, if released in an eBook will definitely expand the eBook market. It will do so because it brings a very high profile writer into the digital market place, and thereby cause more people to consider an eReader.

    1. Howard,

      Arguably it’s unfair to leave them out, but I reckon it’s fair because supermarkets despite being great for authors and readers (and larger pubs too) they have been damaging to chains and independent booksellers and are NOT focused on books per se.

      I agree re; the ebook market benefiting but again that’s unlikely to help booksellers!

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