#18 Street Dates

NEIBA Question of the Week #18

The NEIBA Board members are starting a Question of the Week on the NEIBA Group at Yahoo! Groups (our Listserv). The goal is to share everyone’s common knowledge about bookselling or anything related to independent bookstores.  It is our hope that after the Board has run through with their questions other members will continue the asking.

This week’s question is:

What is the opinion about title’s “street dates” listed on Ingram or on the invoice?

Do you abide by this and not put the book on sale prior to that date?

Or do you only abide by the strict laydown/affidavit titles?

– Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books

Alice Moisen, Annie’s Book Stop, Portland, ME

We go by the Street Dates from Ingram. We hold books until the ‘street date’

Nancy Oliver, Wit & Whimsy

We always abide by the street dates listed. I check the publication date online for verification, and if a book is received prior to the pub date, we put it in our back room until the appropriate date.

Alice Hutchinson, Byrd’s Books

We have always stuck to the “Street Dates”, keeping them tucked away, and make a big deal out of the date of release- “Out Today” kind of thing…

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

When in doubt, we call the publisher. Too many titles have street dates” only a few really deserve to be embargoed and I think the publishers get that. A lot of the time they tell you to go ahead and put it out. The street date is often more of a logistical tool for their warehouse than it is a hard and fast date for stores to abide by. At least thats what we’ve found. Â It can be a little confusing, so we call

Judy Crosby, Island Books

We always stick to street dates/strict on-sale dates. If it has a date on the box or on the invoice/packing slip that’s the date it goes out on the shelf for sale. Period. End of story.

If memory serves it was a hard fought battle that ABA won to get us these strict on-sale dates. Before they existed B&N and Borders (and large independents)* got many of the titles they ordered way before smaller stores. They probably still do (it makes sense that larger orders would leave the warehouses first) but now they can’t sell them until the rest of us gets ours. ABA really helped us all by leveling that particular playing field.

Are there too many with these dates? Perhaps but everyone’s needs are different. Is an on-sale date for the new John Sandford a big deal to me? No, but it may be for another store. Does the Fodor’s guide in my RH box need an on-sale date? No, but that’s the way RH chooses to ship their titles so that’s fine by me. Do I even order all the titles Penguin itemizes on their boxes with dates? No, but many other stores do. And, since they only come in a day or two before the date it really isn’t a lot of trouble for us at all.

Please consider this. During my very short commute this morning I heard two books mentioned on NPR that go on sale today – Five Days at Memorial and Stephen Hawkings new memoir. What if there wasn’t a particular on-sale date and I hadn’t gotten my copies yet because of the way books are shipped and a customer came in looking for it? I would not be pleased. And I might not be able to say exactly when I would have it as I can now. They may choose to go check out the B&N a mile away. Our customers don’t come to us because of price but they certainly come to us because we know what we’re talking about – on-sale dates give us the certainty of knowing exactly when we will have a title AND that our customers can’t get it from B&N or Amazon before they can get it from us.

A little anecdote for you – years ago one of my booksellers called a B&N asking about a title we thought they may’ve put out early. The bookseller she spoke with said, ‘Oh no, we can’t sell it until X date. It’s a federal law.’ I kid you not – we still refer to that federal law around here.

*I don’t think Amazon was a big issue yet but they certainly would be now if these dates weren’t adhered to.

Carol, Eight Cousins

We happily ignored street dates for all but the biggest releases, thinking nobody would notice such small beans as us. Then, some years back, another bookstore in town dropped a key YA book before the street date because, they said, we had let out a hot adult title ahead of schedule. (Who knew it was hot? Something about a Dragon Tattoo… NOW we understand.) Since that time we’ve held closely to all stated street dates unless there’s a very good reason to put a specific item into a customer’s hands a few hours ahead. (This happens maybe twice a year?) The upside: our New Releases table – groaning at this time of year – is getting a fair amount of customer attention. It also allows more staff to get a longer look at what’s new, including me, who ordered the books so long ago I’ve forgotten all about most of them.

Suzanna, Oblong

I totally agree with Judy & Carol. Strict on sale dates may be a burden at times, but they’re there to protect us from unfair competition. 🙂

Kenny, DD&G

I completely agree with Judy’s points here. Very well said. Of course one sees plenty of books carrying strict on sale dates the need for which is plainly silly, but that is not relevant. The integrity of the system is of great importance and the street date worthiness of given titles is not our department, other than to chuckle about. The bunching together of new releases is a good thing in some ways. I have noticed that many customers have come to take an interest in Tuesdays, knowing that a fresh batch of new books are loosed on the world that day.

Carole, Carole Horne

I agree with Suzanna. We follow the laydown dates if the publisher states them. They’re to our benefit.

Becky, Vermont Bookshop

Perhaps I mis-read Annie’s question. My response was to ‘street dates’, not strict on-sale dates, as enforced by affidavit or prior agreement. We never put books on display prior to any designated dates and won’t sell an embargoed title. I was a little flippant, it seems, in my application of the metaphor.

Elizabeth, Flying Pig

I have to say we always adhere to street dates if they are labeled as such. Ever since the first Harry Potter debacle sparked all of that, we have been vigilant. The only time I can think of not paying attention to a street date was a watercolor instruction book, I think from Watson-Guptill. There wasn’t a notice on the box or packing slip, just a date discrepancy in Ingram. I shelved it anyway. Guilt! Guilt!

That said, I just received a Moleskine order with some white journals that list an October 13 street date. I have been meaning to ask our rep if that is an oversight or an actual laydown date.

Anyhow, I like a fair playing field and respect the dates. Some publishers go a little overboard with street dates for books that frankly won’t have a slavering crowd hankering at the gates, but we still abide by the box and packing slip date requirements.

Judy, Island Books

Maybe some definitions would help in the discussion – I hope you’ll all chime in with yours.

Personally I see street date(smart or otherwise), on-sale date (strict or otherwise) and laydown dates all as the same thing with different publishers using the different terms. These would be titles that may or may not have advances sent out for review but have one set date for going on sale. They may be big titles highly anticipated by all or by a mere few but the publisher has decided on a particular date for it to go on sale nationwide. Embargoed titles (in my mind) are those that have no advances sent out and whose content (and sometimes author) is kept under wraps until the big day that it goes on sale – no advance reviews, etc. An affidavit title I’m not entirely sure about. Sometimes I have to sign an affidavit for a particular title and it would seem that it may or may not get advance reviews/press – so maybe its part way between embargoed and a title with an on-sale date? Or maybe its with publishers who don’t frequently assign a specific date. I don’t know…different publishers require different things for different titles. (What a surprise in this crazy business!)

As for the agreements involved I’m not sure what I signed when or if I signed anything with publishers regarding general on-sale dates. I do know that I signed something recently with B&T and I think I have to renew a similar document with Ingram from time to time. Even if the agreement is simply implied in doing business with publishers/wholesalers I’ll stand by it in good faith.

I do know that when this practice was instituted it was a big deal – a very big deal – and it was taken seriously. Am I dating myself? Yikes!

Janet, Storybook Cove

I always abide by whatever date is given on invoices or box stickers. My problem is that I forget to put them out! Inevitably I’ll be having lunch and remember it’s Tuesday. I used to put them in a closet with overstock, now I put them on my special order shelf. I really need to get them into my Tuesday morning routine “before” storytime. I also put them put on a shelf that says “new this week” or at the check out counter when they can be sold.

Jan, Partners Village Store

Judy – I think your summation and understanding excellent. Thank you for reminding us of the origins of all this. I too remember the relief when dates were established in hopes that all books would be available on the same day in all venues.