Want a choice of guidebooks at the airport? Forget it

WHSmith (WHS) which has a virtual monopoly on airport and ralilway station book retailing is rumoured to have signed a deal with Penguin (publisher of DK Eyewitness & Top 10 Guides and Rough Guides) to only stock Penguin travel guides in its travel sector bookstores. That's around 450 of its outlets in airports and rail stations across the UK.

The report in book publishing industry magazine The Bookseller suggests that in return WHS is getting a whopping 72% discount and a cash bung up front.

I love the justification from a WHS spokesman. If it wasn't such a serious issue I'd find it hilarious:

A spokesperson from W H Smith said that trials had indicated that the
move would
make travel guide shopping "easier for the customer", as
travel customers are "extremely time pressed".

(Clearly he or she has never spent time waiting for a delayed flight or connecting between flights.)

But let's face it, it's a totally transparent attempt to put a positive spin on a clearly anti-competitive, anti-customer move.The market is being carved up.

According to the Bookseller report, Penguin titles account for 18% of travel guides sold. So folks, because you're 'extremely time pressed' your choice of travel guides will be restricted by over 80%.

Given that WHS is getting such a clonking discount, I wonder if they will pass any of these savings on to customers in the form of reduced prices. Somehow I don't think so.

The message? Buy your guidebooks before you travel... from somewhere other than Smiths.

[Disclosure: I am the author of the Frommer's Day by Day Guide to Seville. Last time I was passing through Gatwick Airport there were 4 copies on the shelf in WHSmith, clearly that won't be the case much longer.]

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