Penguin cheapies put publishers in a flap oveyr 2

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Publishers are angry that a series of cheap mini-books launched by Penguin to mark its 60th anniversary are dominating the best-seller lists.

The books have virtually taken over the lists since their mid-July release. A spokesman for Bookwatch, the publication that compiles the lists, said 18 of the top 25 fiction and 17 of the top 25 non-fiction paperbacks have been from the Penguin 60s. Now a rival publisher has complained to Bookwatch about the inclusion of the cut-price series.

For its diamond anniversary, the publisher has issued 60 short books by writers ranging from Sigmund Freud and Graham Greene to Martin Amis and Will Self, at only 60p each.

Other paperback firms feel that their campaigns to get their authors' books into the top-selling lists are being frustrated by what they acknowledge has been a marketing triumph.

Ian Chapman, managing director of Macmillan books, and Adrian Soar, managing director of Macmillan's whole publishing division, have written to Bookwatch to complain.

Mr Chapman said: "The Penguin initiative deserves praise and congratulation as it has been very successful but . . . these books are pamphlets. For them to be appearing on the best-seller lists is, to be blunt, unfair and inappropriate."

Other publishers, including Random House, Reed, Hodder Headline and Harper- Collins, have also criticised the listings.

But Steve Butler, the research manager for Bookwatch, defended their inclusion. "Sales of paperback books haven't suffered and there's even evidence to say they've picked up. Sales of paperback non-fiction have markedly picked up from where they were last year. There seem to be more customers in bookshops because of these things and that's got to be good."

Matthew Evans, chairman of Faber & Faber, proved an unlikely ally for Penguin. He said: "I bet if every one of those whingeing publishers had thought of the idea they'd be saying how terrific it was . . . It's good to see all those books all over the best-seller lists as opposed to the junk that's normally there."

Marketing triumph, page 4

How Penguins dominate the bestsellers

(Top 25 paperback fiction titles, non-Penguin titles in red)

1 The Body Farm Patricia D Cornwell (Warner, pounds 5.99)

2 A Model Anais Nin (Pengin, 60p)

3 Summer Albert Camus (Penguin, 60p)

4 Meditations Marcus Aurelius (Penguin, 60p)

5 The Glass Lake Maeve Binchy (Orion, pounds 5.99)

6 Bon Voyage, Mr President Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Penguin, 60p)

7 Ten Italian Folk Tales Italo Calvino (Penguin, 60p)

8 Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud (Penguin, 60p)

9 The Happy Prince Oscar Wilde (Penguin, 60p)

10 Killing the Angel in the House Virginia Woolf (Penguin, 60p)

11 The Black Monk Anton Chekhov (Penguin, 60p)

12 I'll Be With You in the Squeezing of a Lemon

Elizabeth David (Penguin 60p)

13 Insomnia Stephen King (NEL, pounds 5.99)

14 Hollywood Kids Jackie Collins (Pan, pounds 5.99)

15 Little Tales of Misogyny Patricia Highsmith (Penguin, 60p)

16 God's Dice Martin Amis (Penguin, 60p)

17 Friends from Philadelphia John Updike (Penguin, 60p)

18 Matilda's England William Trevor (Penguin, 60p)

19 Scales Will Self (Penguin, 60p)

20 A Long Night at Abu Simbel Penelope Lively (Penguin, 60p)

21 The Pit and the Pendulum Edgar Allan Poe (Penguin, 60p)

22 Twelve Red Herrings Jeffrey Archer (Harper-Collins, pounds 4.99)

23 First and Last Truman Capote (Penguin, 60p)

24 The Escape Katherine Mansfield (Penguin, 60p)

25 The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope

Saki (Penguin, 60p)

(source, Bookwatch)