Graham Beattie, former publisher and bookseller, leading book blogger and arch supporter of the NZ book industry, is furious. His blog's banner headline today is: "Whitcoulls pull the plug and let down the whole NZ book trade."
Nielsen Bookscan has advised that "Whitcoulls will stop contributing sales data to the NZ Bookscan panel from Week 37" -- which is next week. Nielsen Bookscan uses book-buying statistics from a panel of NZ booksellers from Whitcoulls through to independent booksellers to show trends in book sales. These are vital for the book industry in making strategic decisions about publishing, promoting, getting support for and selling NZ and overseas titles.
The Nielsen statistics are also used to draw up the weekly bestsellers list published by Booksellers NZ. This list influences many New Zealanders in the books they buy. As a bookseller myself, I know this for a fact. (I work Fridays at Eastbourne's Rona Gallery.)
In the same way many people choose the wine with the gold and silver award stickers, so they often select books that are already selling well because there's less risk involved and the outcome is more predictable. The book will at some level be a worthwhile read and the $30, $40 plus investment won't be wasted. Without the input of stats from bookselling giant Whitcoulls, the Nielsen scan and resulting bestsellers lists will have less meaning and less impact here. What will buyers do? Look at the greater safety of the overseas bestsellers? Where does that leave NZ books?
Graham Beattie: "This is a very sad day for the NZ book trade and The Bookman suggests that Whitcoulls are being hugely irresponsible by withdrawing their participation in the Nielsen BookScan programme. Shame on you Ian Draper. (Whitcoulls MD)
I for one shall register my dismay and disappointment by never buying a book at Whitcoulls again. If enough book buyers also take this action then the absence of their sales figures would become irrelevant."
Auckland University Press’s Sam Elworthy: “Whitcoull’s lack of participation in BookScan is very disappointing for the whole book industry really.”
Publishers' Association NZ President Kevin Chapman: "I have told Ian that I consider it no less than industry vandalism. It doesn’t take us back to the Dark Ages, but it certainly gives us less light to see our way ahead.”
Boycotting Whitcoulls is one way to fight back. I don't go there anyway, so I'm happy to join Graham's crusade, and urge other book buyers to do the same. Nielsen's advises, that as of next week the NZ panel for the bookscan will include the following retailers:
LS Travel Retail
Independent – general, specialist and Internet retailers
If you're got a choice, pick one of those.