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Book Publishing Payola Hits Aussieland

The exchange between Tower Books and Angus and Robertson, an Australian small press publisher and a bookstore chain, in which Angus and Robertson demanded cash on the barrel to continue stocking the books of small and “unprofitable suppliers” has been penetrating the tech blogeratti via BoingBoing and the usual trickle down news and information flows.

There has been the usual outrage but for all the wrong reasons. TechDirt.com described it as Book Publishing Payola but that would more accurately reflect the sweetheart deals that Michael Rakusin described in his voluminous retort. On the other hand payment for stocking products is nothing new. Your supermarket gives prominence to certain brands for a reason after all.

Now virtually all store chains, from supermarkets to electronics stores will give prominence to certain products on a quid pro quo basis. At the basic level this begins with discounts. Stores want to draw in customers with sales. That means pushing the suppliers and companies they deal with to cut prices. This can be a win-win situation when companies get to promote their product and stores get to draw in customers or win-lose. Refunds are of course the other tent pole of this arrangement.

But cash over the barrel or payment for placement is far from uncommon. In America the graver problem comes when stores and publishers combine creating horrid mega-entities like Barnes and Nobles and the rest of the massive German conglomerate.

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