Following a discussion on the closure of Footprint Books I asked my friend Jennifer Jones to write us a few words about this.
Footprint Books is an Australian book distribution company founded in 1999 by Kate O’Reilly and Simon Player, both of whom already had several years of experience in the Australian book industry. On their website it says they
“service a population of over 26 million throughout Australia and New Zealand, an estimated AU$1.8 billion Australasian book market.”
Book distributors are the link between a book publisher and the retail market (booksellers), warehousing books and handling sales. A book distributor will represent a select list of publishers, for example, Footprint Books represents around fifty publishers – these include Springer, Sage, Brookes, and several universities such as Harvard and Cornell. Imagine as a retailer having to set up accounts with fifty separate publishers when instead you only need an account with Footprint Books. Moreover, some publishers set high minimum orders that would be impracticable for small retailers. Some publishers only sell through distributors, for example New South Books, the publishing arm of UniNSW, sells through Alliance Distribution Services, a division of Hachette Australia. Another major book distributor in Australia is United Book Distributors, part of Penguin Random House. Some book distribution companies, such as Footprint Books, also act as library suppliers.
My association with Footprint Books came about because they are the sole Australian agent for Jessica Kingsley publishers in the UK. Jessica Kingsley specialise in books about autism and neurodiversity. From 2007 to 2017 I was the manager of a small bookshop and library run by a sexual health clinic that offered sexuality education to people with intellectual disability, and purchased a number of Jessica Kingsley titles to onsell. With a change of job I am now the subject librarian for Disability Studies at a TAFE Institute, and once again purchase a large number of Jessica Kingsley books, this time on a retail basis.
With the announced closure of Footprint Books due to personal reasons (not COVID-related) it was brought home to me how easily the supply chain can be disrupted, especially during the current pandemic when it is hard enough getting books from overseas. Luckily (and, perhaps, obviously) Jessica Kingsley have found a new distributor in Australia – Woodslane in NSW, but the closure of Footprint Books is still a sad loss to the Australian book industry.