Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The controversial Mr Scott Pack

In the drab, utilitarian head office of Waterstone's - the largest bookshop chain in Britain - a man with an equally drab, utilitarian name - Scott Pack - reigned like a despotic medieval monarch, possessing the power of life or death over the latest works of fiction. Publishers would nervously make their way up to Pack's office knowing that if he gave any of their authors the thumbs down, then they might as well cancel the print run. When a takeover of Ottakar's - the second largest chain in Britain - was mooted, the publishing world quaked in its boots.

Articles like this one appeared in the press and suddenly Scott Pack went from being an unknown buyer in a retail chain to become the most controversial figure in the publishing industry. Pack, it was claimed by many, would 'dumb down' bookselling and replace range and diversity with a limited selection of bestsellers.

This was largely nonsense and there are several obscure authors who have succeeded against the odds thanks to Pack's support, as this link will testify.

Pack is no longer at Waterstone's and now works in publishing. I have just seen his blog is one of the best I've come across. He comes across as someone who is passionate about books, but doesn't take himself too seriously. There is a enjoyable rant about the author Norman Lebecht and a wonderful entry about a visit to a second-hand bookshop.

It is worth visiting Pack's blog just to read an anecdote about David Tomlinson, the actor who played the fake magician in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

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