Angus and Robertson, one of the bookstore chains in Australia, is taking a “pay us to stock your product or go away” approach with publishers.

When does the drive to make a profit cross over to clear-cut greed? What is the definition of greed? A business, by definition, must make a profit; but how far should a business focus on making a profit before it starts eroding its offerings?

For details and additional links read the post on Syrup and Tang.

In this particular instance, Angus and Robertson’s tactic may well create a situation (if it is not already the case) where all they offer are what they consider as most saleable in the short term, and then only from those publishers who have not been alienated by their “pay us to stock your product or go away” approach.

A parallel may be drawn with the ubiquitous clothing chains. Each shop in each shopping centre stocks exactly the same range at the same time. How boring is that! The connoisseurs who want something truly interesting go to op shops and the truly individual retailers.

From a market differentiation viewpoint, my guess is that Angus and Robertson is struggling. They are being squeezed from all sides: there are the real bookshops like Borders, Amazon, and individual retailers. From another end come the newsagency chains that also sell (the same) popular books and the discount outlets.

Dymocks takes an interesting approach, in Sydney if nowhere else. In addition to the generic bookshops (not that dissimilar to Angus and Robertson’s shops), they also have specialist/technical bookshops. Dymock’s generic bookstores probably suffer the same differentiation challenges as Angus and Robertson’s shops. But will the technical bookshops be enough?

Consider the Internet. It essentially gives customers access to all the books in the world. How often had you gone looking for a book only to be told that it had to be ordered? Why not just order it online and get it delivered to your door? As more people start buying online, more publishers and authors will bypass traditional retail channels and sell directly online.