Knopf punished for its Stieg Larsson follies and incompetence

by Peter

The American publishing house Knopf – the publisher of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series in the United States – is currently being publicly punished for gross incompetence by book stores and readers in the US. An interesting spectacle, if you ask me.

New York Times reportsThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson that book stores are importing Stieg Larsson’s latest,The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (link to same at Amazon UK), from England, where it has already been published. The price in England is about $ 15, and it is selling in the US for up to $ 45. So this is pretty good business. As will notice if you click on the image of the book, Amazon only sells preorders, and not the real thing because they are loyal to silly Knopf!

So wherein lies the folly and incompetence of Knopf? In behaving as if we live in 1909 and not 2009! In 1909 few people would have known that the book had already been published in England (or, indeed, that English printing presses managed to churn out The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire much quicker as well). But in 2009, in the Age of Internet, the Age of the informed consumer, virtually everybody know. Including, of course, small independent book sellers throughout the land.

So people do the smart thing – some readers order from Amazon UK, some from other online booksellers in England, some bookstores import from England. People buy several copies of the book in England whilst traveling and bring it back. There are many possibilities! And in the Age of Internet people are smart – they find them!

Only Knopf still lives in the pre-internet age. They could have coordinated the US publication dates with those in England. Indeed, perhaps they could even have beaten England to the mill? But like GM, the market insensitive giant whose market shares have steadily dwindled since World War II, they chose to do it the way they preferred, ignoring the nuisance of consumers preferences. It is hard to see any other reason why the US is the last country in the civilized world to get The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest?

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