Recently I couldn’t find two books in local book stores because they had sold out and they couldn’t back order them through their warehouses. Of course Amazon had copies but in chats with the bookstores I got a funny picture of publishing today that makes me wonder if the industry is actually doing well. Ottolenghi’s Simple was the first book, obviously he’s been hugely successful so I would have thought that they’d print tons of copies. The second is Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ The Circuit, a blow by blow look at the 2017 men’s tennis season. Written by a poet, published by FSG, based on a topic that doesn’t exactly scream mass interest – here’s an example of something that I could understand being difficult to find.
When I asked book people about it they said the same thing. Publishers aren’t printing as many copies as they watch their bottom lines more closely. In Simple’s case that’s confounding exactly because it’s so successful and feels like one of those evergreen books that should always be on every shelf, maybe they’re really getting good at inventory management or maybe they’re just being penny wise. For the Circuit it makes complete sense because, apparently, it was a sleeper success. Either way, I hope this means that publishers are finally resolving the structural issues of the digital economy and getting back to working on great books because these two books have been really fun additions.