They sell books where?
October 30, 2007 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Why do book advertisements say "available wherever books are sold"?

I've seen this in print ads, but also heard it in places like short public radio underwriting spots, where words are at a great premium. Surely the audience for a book advertisement already knows how to buy a book — and if not, this generic reminder does nothing to help it find a bookstore anyway. Why not use these five words to communicate something more specific about the book being advertised? Is "sold" a subtle attempt to bias the audience away from library borrowing? Or is this just a useless vestigial remnant of ads that promote a specific bookstore chain?
posted by RogerB to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
People are easily confused? I can just imagine someone going to a fish market and asking for the latest Tom Clancy novel.

I think it actually implies mass market availability. Grocery stores, drug stores, even some convenience stores have book sections. If something is in such wide release, you could expect to find it "wherever books are sold" as opposed to something in limited release. Just my 2 cents.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:12 AM on October 30, 2007

Maybe this is a way to distinguish books which are just being reviewed (and may be still unavailable) with those that are on the market.

It reminds us that the book can be bought now.

The same reason that after a movie advert they say, "coming soon to a theater near you". Well, where else would it be coming to? The point is that they want to emphasize the temporal aspect of when this product may be consumed.
posted by mateuslee at 9:12 AM on October 30, 2007

I believe, as others have said, that this implies mass-market availability. Some niche-type books, for example, need to be ordered directly from a publisher, as they have small production runs and therefore aren't distributed through bookstores.
posted by fvox13 at 9:24 AM on October 30, 2007

Tradition mostly. Also, I believe this is a revenue generator because they can go up to barnes and noble and say 'Look for 10k a month we will replace that will Barnes and Noble.' Sometimes you'll see ads that say "Available at your local K-Mart."
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:25 AM on October 30, 2007

I used to write book ads that include this and some publishers use it to imply a mass market (a good deal of books used to be sold at pharmacies and general stores) and others use it as a catchall (i.e. you can't go into any Borders and pick up a copy of every University Press title, but you can order one from any national book chain, so technically it is "available.").

damn dirty ape is right that some publishers have used exclusivity deals like "Available May 2 at and wherever books are sold."
posted by mattbucher at 9:33 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

True for music as well, on both the pre-release vs available and the sponsorship angles.
posted by softlord at 9:57 AM on October 30, 2007

Because you can buy lots of current releases at KMart and Costco, as well as at traditional bookstores.
posted by Lynsey at 10:24 AM on October 30, 2007

A related ploy is 'available in all good bookshops.' This suggests that if a bookshop does not stock the item, it isn't a 'good' one.
posted by Jakob at 10:25 AM on October 30, 2007

Reminds me of a scene from Designing Women. Julia was at a bookstore asking the clerk for Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and the clerk didn't know anything about it. "This is a bookstore, isn't it?" "Yes." "I thought so. I could tell by the many calendars, stuffed animals and video tapes for sale."
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I figure it means, "You can walk into a local bookstore and buy this book. Today. Now. Instant gratification! Do it while you still remember the title. Buy it! BuyBuyBuy."
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:50 AM on October 30, 2007

My guess would be that it also acts as an environmental trigger. The hope is that the next time you find yourself somewhere that sells books, a little light bulb will go off in your brain where you're reminded of that one really interesting book you heard about the other day. At that point you'll be motivated to seek it out, then maybe flip through it a little, and sooner or later you're roped into a sale.

It sounds silly that five words would be capable of fiddling with your brain so much, but it works.
posted by Smallpox at 11:26 AM on October 30, 2007

(a) because gas stations do sell books. sometimes.
(b) because you're already used to that phrase and thus can spend more attention to the rest of the commercial. we checked it off the client list without it being in the way.
posted by krautland at 12:46 PM on October 30, 2007's instead of saying "Available at selected book stores" which is also five words long but requires you to do a certain amount of homework finding out which stores are selling the book.

I guess it's just for convenience to would-be buyer - as exphysicist345 mentioned.
posted by stackhaus23 at 3:43 PM on October 30, 2007

I always thought it was a genericism: so they can run the same ad everywhere, and don't have to localise it.
posted by jacalata at 8:44 PM on October 30, 2007

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