What do people read in the summertime? Predominantly I’d wager whatever is in the 3 for 2 section at Books Etc at the airport. And these in turn are possibly fueled by other media sources: Richard & Judy’s Book Club for instance, and their suggested summer reads. But where do these books come from, did Madeley & Finnegan read them all? Of all the books published every week, which ones get into the book reviews of the Sundays. Oh, I think we are talking marketing aren’t we?

Marketing is apparently an evil in the world of books. It is why we are in the parlous state we are in, where the top ten books in the country are all written by Dan Brown or involve you putting numbers in boxes (who knew the Self Assessment Tax Return could be so popular.) And this is of course all marketing’s fault. Not people who enjoyed the Da Vinci Code and rolled on to all his other books. How big has the ad spend on Da Vinci been after all? Before it Brown was a middling thriller writer, with a sturdy but unimpressive fan base. Now one in five trees chopped down is making a Dan Brown book. But they are in the 3 for 2 piles, they are easy to get in the bookshop and better the devil you know, right. When books are so expensive.

I wonder, do many people even browse that much in bookshops any more, do people pick up books because of the blurb on the back (MARKETING TOO!) or something even more tenuous. Books are expensive, and can we compare the time spent reading with other leisure activities. If we did books would be a bargain, but only if the books are any good. How do we know the books are any good? Marketing. The Da Vinci Code, like High Fidelity and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin before it are water-cooler books, to nick the terminology. Or tube carriage books. Everyone else is reading them, why don’t we? The equivalent of the summer blockbuster in publishing. The only problem is that publishers find it almost as difficult to spot these books as Hollywood has making their blockbusters any good. The perils of comparison between media are clear, but in London a book costs about the same as a film, and yet I suggest the quality criteria we place on either differs wildly. As do the way publishers find and then market them.

With one obvious cross media exception. Stand up Mr Potter…