‘A 50p (75 euro) paperback that looks like it’s been read in a hurry by someone hiding it in a plastic bag is the obvious medium through which to disseminate Mr Brown’s work,’ explained Neil Cunliffe, president of Random House publishers, flanked at the press conference by a Hessian-clad albino bodyguard and a troubled-looking French Egyptologist in her early thirties. ‘And a car boot is the perfect outlet. Our readers are sending us a message loud and clear: they don’t want to wait three months to buy a dog-eared copy of Inferno from a muddy field outside Leominster – they want it now. In short, we have cut out the middle man.’
The news that publishers have begun to bypass regular outlets has been greeted with fury by traditional booksellers around the country.
‘Our hands are tied,’ lamented Fiona Allen, head of publicity for Waterstones. ‘I mean, we can offer reductions like ‘3 for 2’, but we can’t throw in a Millennium Dome wall clock and cuddly meerkat with every book sold. We are not competing on a level playing field here. Or even a disused NCP carpark.’
In a parallel move, Virgin has announced that the fully remastered 25th anniversary edition of Phil Collins’ album But Seriously will be available in a luxury collectors’ edition featuring a bonus CD of So Far So Good by Bryan Adams, a Blu Ray DVD of Spice World – The Movie, and all conveniently housed in a wooden casket previously used to store a fondue set.