Hmm, so publishers finally catch up with Foyle’s, do they? A million years ago, when I was a slip of a gel — well, in the 1980s, maybe even the 1990s — Foyle’s bookshop used to shelve its books, not by subject, nor by genre, nor even by colour of jacket, but by publisher. Yup, if you wanted to buy a copy of Ulysses, or Agatha Christie, or The Galloping Gourmet (or was that a television programme? It was a long time ago), you had to know who published it. Which was, of course, absurd.
Foyle’s did it because it was easy for the staff. Not, of course, the staff dealing with bewildered or irate customers. But the staff shelving, and the staff ordering, copies. The publisher’s sales-rep came in, they pointed him or her to the ‘Penguin’ shelves, s/he looked at what was needed, and put in an order. All hotsty-totsy, apart from those poor saps who actually wanted to buy books. (Which they did somewhere else. So Foyle’s almost disintegrated. But that’s another story.)
For possibly as much as a decade, publishers have been acting like Christina Foyle: they have set up websites to promote ‘their’ books, and ‘their’ authors. (By the way, can I tell publishers how not-enchanted authors are to be referred to by this possessive?) But readers don’t think, ‘Hmm, I’d like to buy a Macmillan title now. Gee, I wonder what they’re offering? I know, I’ll go to their website and see!’
I don’t even know why I had to type that last sentence out, it is so obvious. But not to publishers, apparently. Anyway, they have just as apparently Seen the Light. Hachette, Simon and Schuster and Penguin are setting up bookish.com, which will be run, they claim, independently, to present a one-stop shop for all books by all publishers.
Well, I look forward. Who knows? But I’ve got to say, the website’s name stinks. Bookish, wow, what a come-on. How incredibly whole-hearted of the industry. It’s like the old Jonathan Miller joke. He was asked if he was a Jew. ‘Not a Jew,’ he demurred, ‘more Jewish. Not,’ he added confidingly, ‘not the whole hog, you know.’
Book-ish. A few pages short of a whole index?