Monday, November 06, 2006

Comment: How Can A Bestselling Canadian Book Be Ignored

It was quite surprising to me when I read reports in McLeans Magazine and the National Post that Mark Steyn's latest book, America Alone from Regnery Publishing is being boycotted by Canada's largest book seller, Indigo.

While I suspect the substance of this allegation is more spin than reality, nonetheless it does strike me as really odd.

The oddness comes from the fact that Indigo is a commercial enterprise, and it would seem to be in their interests to stock books that, well, sell.

So when you see a book like Steyn's not in stock, and nonetheless it is on both the New York Times bestseller lists and number one on's sales driven bestseller list, it seems like something is seriously amis.

With this in mind, I looked the book up on the Toronto Public Library system and quickly found out it was not there. Nor was another title called "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam" which had helpfully provided to me as a companion suggestion to Steyns work.

At the time, the P.I.G. Guide to Islam was at number 15 on the list. I thought that one missed book, especially a new one with an American Publisher, was understandable. But the P.I.G. Guide to Islam was orginially published in 2005 and it is a bestseller. Quite simply, because the views in this book about Islam are somewhat similar to Steyn's I thought a pattern might be emerging here.

With this in mind I sent the email I have posted below to the Toronto Public Library as well as a cc to Michael Coren and Mark Steyn.

So, because of my email, I am inferring that I have now added at least one copy of the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam to the Toronto Public Library Collection.

Here is the response and then the original email:

Dear Mr. Kiff,

Your email was forwarded to me by the City Librarian as the manager responsible for collection development. Multiple copies of Mark Steyn's book, America Alone, were ordered about a week ago. Currently, it takes up to two weeks for an ordered title to appear in the catalogue due to the volume of material, so it should be there by next week.

The title was not ordered earler because it was not listed in the Fall catalogue of the National Book Network, Regnery Publishing's Canadian distributor, from which we regularly select. We do have other titles by Mr. Steyn and we ordered this one as soon as it came to our attention.

Our goal is to provide a balanced collection on all subjects, but we cannot buy every title on a topic. However, as part of our commitment to provide a responsive service, we welcome suggestions from the public about titles they don't see in the catalogue. You can find forms for that purpose at every branch.

We will buy The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Rober Spencer and we do have other titles by him. If you check the catalogue in about two weeks, you will see this title and can place a hold on it if you wish.

Thank you for your interest in the Toronto Public Library.

Susan Caron
Manager, Collection Development Dept.
Toronto Public Library


>>> "Stewart Kiff" 10/31 8:11 am >>>
Dear Librarian:

I am a regular and avid user of the library.

I was on your site today and could not help but notice that you have not even ordered the number one ranked selling book on * Canadian Author Mark Steyn's America Alone.

Here is the current ranking of sales:

This is odd, because I use your system every week and am regularly able to pre-order popular new non-fiction releases like Paul Wells's new book.

But this book is not even on order for you library. Frankly that is odd, because the book has been released to great fanfare in Major Canadian Media such as McLean's and the National Post.

Why is your ordering system so broken that you are not even ordering copies of a book that many Canadians are buying?

Unfortunately, it seems like you have a systemic problem and this is not a one-off. When I get to title number 15 on there is also a non-fiction title that you do not have in your collection. It is Robert Spencer's The Politically Incorrect guide to Islam * which was released in August 2005. What possible reason can there be for a popular book released in 2005 not being in your collection, especially as it is now in paperback version? As its high ranking on shows * many Canadians disagree with the choices your library is making. I find this puzzling. Are you doing this on purpose?

Can you please let me know in writing your decision making process that has led to the exclusion of these popular titles and what you are doing to remedy the situation?


Stewart Kiff