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It’s not just George.

Opera Chic led me to Gramophone‘s (my second-favorite magazine in the world) plan to sell CDs and downloads on their site. Gramophone is primarily in the business of reviewing classical music CDs; if they (to employ the British usage!) are also selling them, it raises the question of editorial independence–presumably, a glowing review in the magazine could lead someone to buy the CD under review, which Gramophone will also sell to you for its own profit. See the problem?

I understand the temptation, though–we could probably pick up some change if our online reviews linked to, say, Amazon, but the perception that we were trying to profit from two contradictory impulses wouldn’t be worth it. Plus, I really wouldn’t want to piss off the Children’s Book Shop’s Terri Schmitz. (Neither would you.) The fact that the Horn Book, like all the review journals, solicits ads from publishers is already tricky enough.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Andy Laties says:

    >Well yes, but Horn Book is after all a review journal that was launched by a children’s bookshop!

    The London Review Bookshop is a terrific bookstore created by a book review journal.

    So, I don’t see why you shouldn’t sell books. Why don’t you contract with Terri to do it? (Or me at Eric Carle Museum.) We’d both give you a goodly percentage that would far exceed Amazon’s average 4%.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >See, there’s the problem–Terri or you or Curious George, etc. We don’t want to favor any of ’em, at the risk of alienating the others.

    But that’s only half the problem. Our readers could infer that our reviews are designed to get them to buy, thus calling into question our status as an independent source. While I think we could and would maintain a wall between editorial and bookselling (as we do between editorial and advertising), the perception that “there’s something in it for us” might compromise our market value as reviewers.

    I don’t think Bertha’s original Horn Book pretended to be anything but a buying guide, hopefully to be used in her store. But everything is bigger now–and while her first audience was consumers, ours is librarians. I wonder, though, if the situation might be different with our new parent-directed e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. We’ll (not being royal or editorial; I mean me and the publisher) need to think about that.

  3. Andy Laties says:

    >Well, if you do decide to include bookselling links on the newsletter you could consider using the American Booksellers Association’s web-based fulfillment mechanism,, which directs buyers to the nearest independent bookstore for the order fulfillment. The way it works is that the online buyer clinks the link in your newsletter and arrives at the front page. She/he plugs in their zipcode, and then find her/mself on the webpage of the closest indie bookstore to their house. The book-order is placed by the consumer on that local bookstore’s webpage, and the book purchase is then immediately drop-shipped directly to the consumer’s house (or office) from the warehouse of a major national wholesaler (Baker & Taylor, I think), with the local bookstore then electronically receiving the profit margin from that book sale. In other words, the local indie bookstore doesn’t have to have the book in stock in their bookstore — the customer can place the order through that local bookstore and receive the book immediately by UPS, since the book actually comes from a warehouse that has a million different books in stock.

  4. Lolly Robinson says:

    >Responding to Roger:

    Actually, Bertha’s bookshop was an outreach tool every bit as much as it was a bookstore — hence the backing of the socially forward-thinking Women’s Educational and Industrial Union. She was more zealous about teaching folks about good books than she was about making a profit. After she tried to find a wider congregation with the book caravan and traveling book exhibits, the Magazine finally provided her with the kind of pulpit she was looking for. Ten years later, when she found herself stretched too thin, the bookshop was the piece she relinquished.


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