The Hidden Price of a Christmas Bestseller lays out the fees involved in getting books promoted in English bookstores. Similar set-ups exist here in the States. In fact, this practice is supposed to be one of the reasons publishers are taking out fewer ads in U.S. newspaper book review supplements, which is said to be one of the reasons those supplements are folding. Publishers are shifting their advertising money to paying to have books promoted in bookstores instead of taking out traditional advertisements.
I think this isn't considered a questionable practice because the publishing industry has accepted it. Bookstore chains probably have employees whose entire job is to sell window and table space to publishers. Publishers probably have employees whose entire job is to buy window and table space from bookstores. Heck, both groups probably have entire departments to handle this stuff.
My guess is that if both buyer and seller agree that something is an acceptable business practice, it's an acceptable business practice.
No "probably" about it, Gail.
In an interview in the NYT magazine about 7 years ago a buyer at B&N, responding to the idea of publishers buying space on the shelves and tables for books to be displayed, said the entire store was for sale in that respect.
Any time you see a shelf featuring a single author or selection of books, that space has been rented but publishers. And the floor staff in the stores spends more than half it's time rearranging the displays (usually the Monday nearest the 1st and 15th of the month, if you want to go see it happen).
The rest of the time they're on the floor employees are processing returns (every six weeks on new titles with low sales) or neatening sections; no time to read, no time to talk to customers.
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