How The Da Vinci Code became such a hit

Yes readers love it but Barnes and Noble pushed it. The author, Dan Brown, was largely unknown in the world of publishing. But Doubleday distributed a remarkable 5000 advance reader and review copies. Internal readers in Barnes and Noble loved the story and the bookseller was on board. Advance orders from the store upped the print run from an initial 60,000 to 230,000 copies. Some Barnes and Noble stores hired greeters to tell customers about the novel. The book debuted at number one on The New York Times bestseller list and has held strong ever since.

And why should Barnes and Noble care? Competitive pressures are forcing them to promote their products to greater degree. The company faces low price competition from discounters such as Costco. If your bookstore can’t compete on price, it has to emphasize quality dimensions, such as being a source for new and hot book ideas.

The usual story suggests that price competition prevents the more expensive retailer from offering ancillary services. You could speak to the stereo salesman at the good shop but buy at the cheap shop. But the cheaper the per unit value, the more likely a store can profit from offering bundled services. It is not worth your while to hear about The da Vinci Code in Barnes and Noble and then drive to Wal-Mart to buy it. In other words, expect more concerts at your local book superstore. And expect book superstores to take a growing role in shaping consumer taste.

I read the book and was repulsed, though I will admit to finishing it, for reasons of research obviously.

There are now 6.1 million copies of The da Vinci Code in print, the title is slated to become the fastest-selling non-Harry Potter book ever, surpassing Bridges of Madison County.

Some of the above information is drawn from the March 8 issue of Fortune.


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