Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Booksellers Association is smashing

The Booksellers Association is 'a member of the National Book Committee, dedicated to the well-being of books and the written word.'
They also say 'Our services range from the commercial, such as reduced rates on credit and debit cards and a tailor made insurance scheme, to the practical, such as the 'Christmas Books' catalogue and carrier bags, to the intangible but invaluable, such as representation to Government and the EU'.
Over 95% of bookshops are signed up to the BA.
It ' is committed to providing the widest possible range of services to its membership, the value of which far outweigh the cost of being a member'.

Now i'm about to play devil's advocate here....

The thing is, a bookshop cannot sell or accept book tokens if it isn't a member of the BA. They're part of the same set up. So, a bookshop really doesn't have much choice then, in becoming a member of the BA, as (quite rightly) bookshops should accept book tokens.

Let's look at the other services it offers;
  • reduced rates on credit and debit card transactions. We got a much reduced rate through Leading Edge.
  • A tailor made insurance scheme. The cost of which is also matched (if not bettered) by other companies
  • Christmas Boks Catalogue. This is a generic catalogue that has the same books in it, so no matter if you're a bookshop in King's Road, or Wood Green. Two very different markets that probably wouldn't want to be promoting the same books at Christmas. It also costs quite a lot.
  • Carrier Bags. These bags advertise National Book Tokens, and not the bookshop. Not the greatest marketing tool in the world (and not that cheap in comparison to other bags out there)
  • Actually this is pretty useful, as it saves banking costs, amongst other things. But it isn't vital...

there are other benefits, but as far as I can see, these benefits can be gained whether you're a member or not.

An annual fee to be a member of the BA starts at about £150, which is quite a lot just for being allowed to trade with Book Tokens.

Now here's the plan.

20 indie bookshops get together, and 19 agree to leave the BA. The other bookshop (that's still a member of the BA) buys all the book tokens for all the 20 indie shops. Everyone still carries on accepting and selling book tolkens as normal. The 19 shops then send the used book tokens to thae 20th shop every, say, 2 months, and it then sends the tokens to the BA and gets the credit, which it then distributes to the other 19 shops. Obviously this means extra work for the one shop, but if the 19 shops paid this one shop say £25 each a year, then the bookshop will be making a tidy sum, and the £19 other shops will have saved themselves £125 each (plus VAT).

Who's with me?

Please note, I love the Booksellers Association and all they stand for. I'm more than happy to listen to all the other reasons why we should be members of the BA, so feel free to educate me.


CPMatthew said...

Batch is a useful tool - but it's also very useful for publishers.

I may be pretty uneducated but I have never been convinced of the benefits of the BA. They seem to be completely out of touch with small bookshops and their needs.

If you can be arsed to start a movement towards a book token for independent bookshops only then count us in...

tank green said...

although i'm not a bookseller, i have worked for a while in a bookshop, and i do have dreams of madness to one day have a bookshop (somewhere warm), so i thought i'd chime in.

i like your idea about banding together but also wondered if there was a service that you (and other inde booksellers) needed and that perhaps you could suggest to the BA and get them to add it to the services they provide. (or perhaps they could have a two tiered service option: small bookshop / chain bookshop.)

you could explain that the services they offer don't really suit the needs of a small bookshop and so you can no longer justify the expense. perhaps that could nudge them into being more useful to you.

of course, that depends on whether or not there is a service you could imagine them providing you.

either way - good luck. :)

CPMatthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.