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The best explanation I've ever read of the difference between wholesalers and distributors is this:
WHOLESALERS work for stores (booksellers), fulfilling their orders
DISTRIBUTORS work for publishers, actively selling their titles to stores (booksellers)
There are some hybrids, but those definitions seem to hold pretty true. Distributors often ask for exclusives or exclusives in a certain channel (say, bookstores). Wholesalers? The more the merrier.
Think of it from the store's point of view. If they are going to order, they usually need a minimum number of titles. If they can order a title from a number of places, it's more likely to be ordered.
DISTRIBUTORS buy books on discount from publishers, keep a stock on hand, publish catalogs, and send reps to stores and chains to get the book on their shelves. Distributors may accept orders for single books from individual stores but generally not from private purchasers.
WHOLESALERS buy on discount and keep stock from which they fulfill smaller orders from stores, but generally don't do any marketing at all. Wholesalers generally only accept quantity orders, and usually work with one or a group of chain stores.
JOBBERS warehouse the products (books) and ship them as directed but don't buy the books themselves. They are a service provider to the publisher rather than a middleman customer.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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