scavenger-hunt Ah…Tuesday. A big, shiny new release day and judging by the look of my bookstore, the book & music fans were out in force. I’ve long since learned that the store by my office never has the new releases out on shelves on Tuesday itself, so I wait until Wednesday to go book hunting. I had several books in mind for this trip, so I set out over my lunch break.

I was able to get the new What Happens in London (already almost sold out!), but no sign of this month’s Betina Krahn novel, Make Me Yours, which I had forgotten to order from Harlequin at the early release date in June and now plan to get in store in July. In addition, no sign of City of Souls, the latest book in Vicki Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac. This last book was one I planned to rip into as soon as possible to see what happened to the characters next, so I was very disappointed not to find it on shelves.

After trying 3 different places, I finally got my hands on City of Souls, but no sign of Make Me Yours. I can understand stores selling out of books. After all, that’s rather a good thing. It means people are actually reading and keeping good authors in business. It’s when stores don’t have the books out by their “on sale” dates that I get irked. After the drama surrounding the various Harry Potter releases, I know that Bad Things can happen when books get laid out early. Authors don’t get credited correctly for their sales on bestseller lists, the store can get in trouble, etc… Much ink was spilled over that issue a few years ago, and I don’t intend to revisit it.

But what about the flip side of the equation? After all, if stores don’t get their new releases out by release day(or even release week), authors will also miss having their names credited properly for bestseller lists and other such data collection. Books tend to get their best sales numbers in the weeks immediately following release. Also, from what I’ve read, selling a lot of books in a short amount of time is what gets one on the bestseller lists and if an author’s books are being laid down in stores in rather haphazard fashion, it must be hard to build this velocity. So it would seem fair to say that timing is important with regard to getting books on shelves. When the new releases are allowed to age to the point of staleness before being placed on shelves, one would think that sales ranks would be hurt, and I don’t see authors or publishers liking that very much.

One bookstore near my home is generally good about getting books out, but the store by my office normally just has its new books stacked several layers deep on a cart behind the information desk on release day. Even worse, they often just sit there for several days. I suppose if you have a hankering to play Book Jenga, you can try your hand at sifting through the stack, but it’s a rather daunting task – and you’ll be shooed away if the desk attendant catches you!

In addition to possibly hurting authors and publishers, as a reader, not having a book available on its release date frustrates me. Sure, the occasional distribution glitch occurs. However, when it becomes a systematic problem, something is wrong. Readers on our forums have often complained about this problem, and I for one can sympathize. When publishers and stores state a book will be out a certain date, playing a game of city-wide scavenger hunt in order to find a store that has it for sale should not be required. I’m not asking for a Harry Potter-style midnight release party for every book I want to read, but having it on shelves on time would be very nice indeed. Authors want us to read their books, so stores should at least let us be able to find them on time. Can you imagine what would happen if, for example, the new Harry Potter movie was slated for release on a certain Friday, but when Friday rolled around, theaters hadn’t bothered to start showing it yet?

I know we have readers from all over the world here. What have your experiences been? Do you see books appearing on their stated release dates or are you out there playing the waiting game with me?

-Lynn Spencer