Know comment: Troubles aren't over yet for publishers, says Cercone

Know comment: Troubles aren't over yet for publishers, says Cercone McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 8, 2001 - Volume 33 Number 10
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 33: 2000-2001 > February 8, 2001 > Know comment: Publishers' troubles continue, says Cercone

Know comment

Troubles aren't over yet for publishers, says Cercone

This week, the Reporter starts a new column devoted to airing the opinions of the many at McGill who are expertly opinionated on events in the news. So, one of these weeks you may expect a ring from us on, say, a study on the dangers of milk, on the likelihood of a referendum being called in Quebec before the next election, or on the wildest or mildest claims about global warming. Be ready.

First up to bat is Philip Cercone, director of McGill-Queen's University Press and someone who has dealt with Canadian bookstore, for the past 16 years. Bronwyn Chester asked him what the implications are for the publishing industry of the buyout of Chapters Inc. by Trilogy Retail Enterprises Inc., the company created by Indigo Books & Music Inc. owner Heather Reisman and her husband Gerry Schwartz to, ultimately, merge Indigo and its long-time rival, Chapters.

Photo PHOTO: Owen Egan

Philip Cercone: After a long,10-month nightmare for publishers because Chapters hasn't been paying for their books, things will, hopefully, be better. Some publishers are concerned that Indigo may end up being an even bigger chain than Chapters -- once they close the 10 to 15 unprofitable Chapters stores -- and Indigo could be just as hard on publishers as its former nemesis. But it remains to be seen whether the federal government will allow the merger. We'll also have to wait to know what rules will be set regarding an even bigger monopoly like Indigo/Trilogy.

The real problem now for publishers and authors is that Chapters is returning books by the truckful. In the shortrun, the situation will only worsen as some stores are closed. Since last October, many publishers have had more returns than sales with Chapters and hundreds are teetering on the brink. Furthermore, many of the returned books can't be resold because they're too damaged thanks, in part, to all the lingering and coffee-drinking while potential buyers peruse their books.

Regarding the McGill Bookstore, now being run by Trilogy, we could see it revert to being an independent, if the Canadian Booksellers' Association has its way. The independents want to restrict the big chains from university campuses.

Here at MQUP, we're coping because we rely heavily on international and institutional sales. Chapters didn't represent 60% of our sales as it did for many; the company represents only seven percent of our total sales, or 15.5% of our Canadian sales. Still, it does affect us. We've had to put our sales projections down. But compared to others, we're counting our lucky stars.

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