Now, according to yesterday's article in the Los Angeles Times, some of those eager publishers are pouting over the decision:
Starbucks "put out the word at first that they would be heralding new voices, but now they've picked something very safe and not very controversial, which is probably what we should have expected in the first place," said a prominent publisher who asked anonymity, noting that his company still wanted to do business with the coffee seller. "My guess is, if this program survives, they'll be picking books that sell quite well and let others gamble on new, lesser-known authors."
I'm glad this publisher spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she couldn't have come off sounding any more stupid and jealous. Starbucks is a coffee store. Why on earth would they risk offending any of their customers by selling "controversial" books? And where would anyone have picked up the idea that Starbucks was eager to "gamble" on new authors?
Whatever I might think of Mitch Albom (okay, his writing's a little smarmy), his new book was a good choice for Starbucks. People know Albom's name, and nobody's likely to be offended when they see his book for sale next to those little sacks of coffee beans. Nobody, that is, except for the publishers who didn't get asked to the dance.
Since Starbucks began selling music CDs, I've bought a few there. If I'm in just the right mood when I spot something new next to the cash register, I'll buy a CD along with my venti latte. And so it will be with books. That's why, when Starbucks announced back in January that it wanted to offer books by new and unknown authors, I knew exactly what they were talking about: they were looking for quirky, inoffensive, accessible little reads--in other words, books ordinary customers like me might pick up on an impulse. Unfortunately, some in the pack of salivating publishers appeared to believe Starbucks was talking about peddling some fairly "literary" books. But when those books don't exactly sell like hotcakes at bookstores, why should anyone imagine they might sell at Starbucks?
Okay, so Mitch Albom isn't a new or unknown author. But nobody does quirky, inoffensive and accessible like Albom, so this was a smart choice. Maybe we'll see a new author next time. But maybe those who are complaining about this "disappointing selection" by Starbucks should be reminded that this has always been about selling coffee, not books
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