The Society’s Chair, Margaret Drabble, wrote to Kate Swann, the Chief Executive of WH Smith, expressing concern that BAA, having declined to renew leases to Borders and Hughes & Hughes, had entered into an exclusive agreement with WHS for the supply of books, newspapers and magazines at BAA airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. Margaret Drabble pressed Kate Swann to ensure that the range of books on offer at airports was improved and not, as seemed more probable, diminished as a result of the exclusion of traditional booksellers.
Last month a group of authors from the Society met representatives of WHS, led by Craig Hillier (Trading Controller – Books) at Terminal 5. The authors were reassured that the range of books offered by WHS Travel, although much smaller than in WHS’s main shops, would be considerable.
Against this background, authors have been alarmed to read that in future WHS Travel will only stock foreign travel books supplied by Penguin. It seems that Penguin will be a monopoly supplier of this genre to WHS Travel, which has a monopoly in the supply of books at all airports operated by BAA. Consumers will have less choice; other publishers and their authors are being penalised.
We have asked WHS and Penguin for their comments and await a response.