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Can pop-up bookshops change the way we buy books?

8 October 2014

 

What’s a distinguished, old publishing house like Faber doing hosting gigs in its own pop-up shop?

From John Walsh at The Independent.

You’re familiar with pop-up restaurants? And pop-up fashion outlets from Comme des Garçons, and pop-up Marmite emporia and pop-up Halloween shops? Well, here’s a new one: pop-up publishing. From tomorrow for three months, Londoners passing through Cecil Court, in the heart of Soho’s second-hand book trade, will find a new arrival: a temporary “pop-up shop” devoted to the productions of just one publisher, Faber & Faber.

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Is the shop a branding exercise? “It’s an attempt by a publisher to engage directly with its readers,” said Brackstone, cautiously, “an opportunity to express ourselves in the high street. We want people to walk into a shop in the heart of traditional bookselling London, and go, ‘Wow, these 80 music books, stretching from The Beastie Boys to Beck, are all published by one company.’ It’s a way to say we don’t just make books, we also create experiences.”

Brackstone concedes that publishing is in a trough. “It’s no secret that the last three-to-five years have been a bit of a bloodbath. Simply judging print runs has become difficult. Where, five years ago, we could expect bookshops to buy in 5,000 copies of a book, today it might be 500 copies. E-book sales are approaching 40 per cent of total book sales. In the US it’s over 50 per cent. So if we can identify the likely audience for our music list, and build a community who follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and get to know them, we can judge much better what kind of experience we can offer.”

If the pop-up initiative seems a gamble, Faber Social have chosen the right partner. The Cecil Court shop is owned by Natalie Galustian, a rare-book dealer with a fondness for risk. After 10 years in the book trade, she opened her shop in 2010 offering just one large item: a collection of vintage poker and other gambling books. “There were 400 of them,” she says. “I’d been putting the collection together for years, and I was determined to sell them as a single entity. After three months, they were all bought by [Hollywood actress and poker ace] Jennifer Tilly, who spotted them in the window on her way to the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, to play in the world series of Poker Europe.”

Galustian’s shop has often featured themed collections – Caribbean literature, Prohibition-era cocktail books, French erotica – and has a downstairs gallery for art and photography exhibitions. The idea for the pop-up started, she says, “at the London Book Fair, when I was complaining to some friends about business being a bit slow, and Lee said why didn’t the Independent Alliance [a loose confederacy of independent publishers that includes Granta, Faber and Canongate] use it to sell their new titles. A few months later, he reminded me of the conversation, and it took off from there.”
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Will Faber’s little shop start a trend? “I don’t think we’re seeing the start of a seismic shift in how the publishing ecosystem works,” says Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association. “The basic model of how publishers work, through wholesalers and retailers, isn’t going to change dramatically anytime soon. It’s true that, in the Netherlands and Germany and Japan, there have been publishers who own every bit of the supply chain, including bookshops – but they invariably offer shelf space to other publishers and stock their rivals’ books. You can’t read too much into this pop-up idea. It’s a really great tactical way of drawing attention to the brand… but no more than that.”

Read the rest here.

From Guest blogger Randall, who’s had nothing in the last twenty-four hours but some scotch and a bag of Funyons while he finishes his next book.

Big Publishing, Bookstores, Discovery

17 Comments to “Can pop-up bookshops change the way we buy books?”

  1. Scotch and Funyuns?

    This book is going to be epic, one way or another.

    Note also the almost throwaway line: “E-book sales are approaching 40 per cent of total book sales. In the US it’s over 50 per cent.”

    So much for plateaued at 30%.

  2. Randall, scotch and Funnyuns are not a balanced diet. You need some beef jerky and ice cream to cover the rest of the food groups while you finish your book.

  3. We want people to walk into a shop in the heart of traditional bookselling London, and go, ‘Wow, these 80 music books, stretching from The Beastie Boys to Beck, are all published by one company.’

    Huh. A whole shop devoted to music books, a whopping 80 of them. Good luck with that.

    • Well, everybody gets excited about who published a book, right? I know I’d be jumping up and down if they were all from the same publisher. I mean, how cool would that be?
      I think I’ll head over to Chapters right now and see when the November Penguins are coming out 😉

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