From independent publishers to supermarkets
(Saronno, 1978), is a writer. He received a Ph.D. in Theory of Literature from the University of Bergamo – where he kept on working for some years as a researcher...Read more
Trenta e lode operates in book distribution, and conceived the Pagine di… scheme, which takes books from independent publishers into supermarkets and hypermarkets in many Italian regions, thereby putting small publishing companies in touch with giant distributors.
Can you tell us what the Pagine di… scheme consists of?
Pagine di… came about almost by accident: our bookshop managed several university bookshops in the province of Cuneo; in addition to university textbooks, we’ve always given plenty of space to publishers in the local area. A local hypermarket (Conad Leclerc) contacted us and asked us to organise a metre of display in their outlet featuring publishers from the region. The result was astonishing and the Piemonte Region used our experience to create a pilot project geared to building alternative markets for independent Piemonte publishers. The Pagine di… brand therefore became identified with local publishing within large-scale distribution and, in the space of a few years, we have expanded from Piemonte to practically the whole of Italy. With the collaboration of a large number of independent publishers (small and medium-sized), we set up a space within the large store dedicated to Pagine di… (expressed as, for example, Pagine di Piemonte, Pagine di Lombardia, Pagine di Puglia…), where we feature the region itself. The idea was later developed and widened and, at this point in time we represent the joining link between the highly specialised and (almost) artisan work of the publishers and the standardised and generalised world of the largest mass retailers.
There’s an apparent contradiction in your work: you support the safeguarding of bibliodiversity, yet you do it by collaborating with mass retailers. How can these two worlds be reconciled?
There’s no contradiction: the inspiration came from locally-sourced “kilometre-0” products which are widely used by mass retailers, and which are the driver of development for many small firms and consortiums of small farmers and food producers. If a region can be promoted through its food and wine, why shouldn’t the same thing happen with books? Bibliodiversity should be safeguarded by the possibility of creating effective and efficient publishing firms; and to do this, there has to be a market to allow them to grow. Small publishers have a local market made up of devoted readers; we’ve brought together demand and supply by means of a channel which – as it operates on a much larger scale – can result in significant revenue for a small firm.
What kind of books do you offer? And how are the books displayed in a supermarket?
We propose books from small and medium-sized independent publishers, often distributed only by the publishers themselves, precisely because of their local characteristics, which are unsuitable for a nationwide market. With our innovative concept of distribution, we are able to act as a single interlocutor with the mass retailer at national level and, at the same time, to convey the product’s regional flavour. For the publishers there’s the security of having a sustainable distribution system, because it’s linked to their target market. Our added value lies in which books are displayed, and how: the core of our work is the attention we place on the layout of the sales outlet, the choice of suitable titles, the price range, the graphics and print characteristics of the books. To this end we have created new professions which fall halfway between knowledge of publishers’ catalogues and sales. We use both social media and traditional communication methods to inform readers visiting the store about our work. Alongside this we have the support of a merchandising firm, whose staff we have trained to meet our specific requirements.
On your website you mention “online sales of local books”. What criteria do you use to select the titles?
The selection of titles on the website is done using the same criteria of localness used to create the Pagine di… spaces in supermarkets and hypermarkets. With online sales there’s the possibility of expanding the range of titles, particularly in terms of cover price. The books are divided first by region, and within the regions they are organised by topic. And so if you’re looking for books on our website, you can find all the titles belonging to a particular region.
Can you explain to us how a publisher who doesn’t know you can become involved in the scheme? In other words: apart from the regional requirement, do you have quality standards in your selection of publishers?
A publisher who wishes to take part in our scheme can email or phone us and we’ll send all the information about our work. More details can be found on our website: www.paginedi.it – www.press.paginedi.it – The regional criterium is important and it’s our distinguishing feature, so we always seek to include publishers who meet this requirement. However, as the target market is extremely varied, and our project is widening to include new sectors, it’s very useful for us if publishers offer us their catalogues. Our way of working is highly collaborative, and sometimes a simple chat gives rise to new ideas. And therefore, anyone interested should not hesitate to get in touch.
And the reading public? How are they responding to this?
Our readers respond well to the range we offer: they are titles that can’t always be found in conventional retail outlets. Also in some areas of the country the supermarket is the only place where books can be bought. Our shelf in the supermarket or the hypermarket reaches an audience that – due to lack of time or education – rarely visits bookshops. If we were to sum it up as a slogan we could say: we bring books to where the readers are. More specifically, with regard to areas where there’s tourism – especially slow tourism – the response is extremely positive and local guidebooks are highly appreciated.
Translation by Claire Davis1 February 2017