2600 DENIED ACCESS TO U.K. STORES DUE TO FEAR OF "NEGATIVE PUBLICITY"

Printer-friendly version

As many of you are aware, it has become increasingly difficult to survive in the publishing world. Digitization of media is one challenge that magazines can either embrace or fight. The perception that people are reading less these days is also cause for concern. And the decline of bookstores due to large chains moving in and then shutting down is another ominous trend.

It's that latter circumstance that has hurt us the most. (We're continuing to expand our digital options and we find that our readers are reading more than ever, so the first two aren't threats to us.) When people can't find us in the retail stores that remain, that's a big problem.

Earlier this year, we started the process of adding 2600 to stores throughout the United Kingdom at the request of many of our readers. Previously, we were prominently displayed on shelves throughout the country. As referenced above, many chains that carried us (such as Borders and Virgin Megastore) are no longer around. Since then, the distributor environment has become significantly more hostile to publishers, requiring new fees for the privilege of being stocked, a majority of the sale price to go to the store and distributor, and exorbitant delivery charges to be borne by the publisher. Despite all of this, we felt we owed it to our many readers in the U.K. to at least try to survive in this marketplace.

This Tuesday, we got our hands on a letter from a representative from Seymour Distribution Ltd. to our American distributor with reasons why we were being denied consideration. We reproduce it below.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rational for taking any import title is based
on the following criteria:

1) What is the possible sales volume we can achieve
based upon the business plan of the publisher.
This includes above and below the line marketing
plan, the UK cover price and the quality of the
publication compared to others in the market place.

2) Is the subject matter likely to cause any
negative publicity or consumer complaints.  Is the
magazine compliant with all aspects of UK Law.

In the event of point 2 some retailers such as
WH Smith High Street, our largest retailer of
specialist goods have in the contract they can
charge the publisher per complaint and fine the
publisher up to £10,000 plus any cost they may
incur on recalling the title such they decide
this is necessary.

In this circumstance, based upon the content
being such that it may cause complaints we
decline your offer of distribution.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We see this as a very ominous development. Where once we were able to be displayed in stores, now we're barred due to concern over controversy. As the above letter shows, there is no concern over potential sales figures or reader interest. Those have not changed. What has changed is the diversity and level of speech that is now permitted in United Kingdom bookstores. This is not just about us. It affects anyone who dares to publish even slightly controversial material. We have no doubt this policy has already had a chilling effect on many publications and is in no small part leading to their reduction. After all, if people can't see the magazines, how do they know they even exist?

We apologize to our readers in the U.K. for our failure to return to bookstores in your country. We ask that you spread this information widely so that people are aware of the restrictions affecting your freedom to read material of your choice. And, of course, you can always subscribe. They haven't (yet) figured out a way to stop that.

For now, we are focusing on strengthening our U.S. distribution so that something similar doesn't happen here. The help and support of our readers will be invaluable in these efforts.