The demise of book publishers and bookstores. Da-da-da-dummmmmm… (queue the thundering drums of doom).
This is a bit off my usual topic but while reading a Blog Post by Seth Godin today, I got a little sad. He has expounded on this topic a number of times in his Blog or at The Domino Project and it always makes me think. The death of bookstores is my real heart-break. I have spent many an hour sitting on a dusty floor at the foot of a towering book shelf in one book store or another perusing books about art, philosophy, sci-fi, photography, cooking, knitting, fantasy, yoga, manga, etcetera. I have consumed an unhealthy number of lattes sitting at bookstore coffee tables flipping through and deciding which magazine is worth shelf space at home. I love to hold, and look, and read books. I miss those hours of leisure spent there.
It’s true I have a B&N close (only an hour drive!) where I can still revel in all that. But, and it’s a big but, my leisure time is less than it was a few years ago and my book shelves are overflowing. Trust me, Border’s demise in not my fault! However, B&N’s may be. Is it because I don’t like the store? No, I love it (but I still won’t PAY for a loyalty card). Is it because I’m not reading as much anymore? No, I’m probably reading a lot more (books, blogs, pdf’s). The real reason is that I use an e-reader for most of my new books now. I miss the feel of a book but for convenience you can’t beat them. I bought a Kindle before the Nook was worth a serious look. I also have an iPad so a Nook will probably never make it in my future. But I have a Nook App and can read their books. And there are several good e-reader Apps available now for us tablet people. I’ve even taken to getting a couple of my favorite magazines on my e-reader.
Convenient and shelf-space friendly.
But most of us don’t only shop for e-books at a book store, we shop online. Convenience, it’s just too hard to go to a store to see books for only ONE reader, especially if we have several. So, are bookstores really going the way of the Edsel and the 8-track? I honestly don’t think so. I think we are having growing pains and it will all shake out in the end.
When I look into the future (I can do that in MY world), I see bookstores popping up all over again. They will be small in size. They will have a coffee shop and tables and couches to relax. They will have banks of iPad sized, full color e-readers instead of book shelves and you will be able to use their free WiFi, or just plug-in your USB cable and download on the spot (for a percentage to the store). You could even e-mail your purchase to your home computer. You can read sample chapters of the books that interest you, flip through the glossy and eye-popping pictures, and read reader reviews. Some of your books will sing and dance (Yellow Submarine), or be interactive (Alice in Wonderland). You can search for books by author, genre or any number of other criteria. And they will all be downloadable in any and all e-reader formats because (again, this is MY world) the publishers and book chains and Amazon will have stopped squabbling over who might get the biggest piece of the pie and realized that there is no shortage of readers and we can all play together nice. There will be a Print-On-Demand machine that can print any book (that doesn’t sing & dance) out in paperback right there on the spot for you if you just have to have real pages to flip and turn down. They will have special edition hard back copies, signed by the authors (at outrageous prices in a locked case) for the collectors. A few coffee table art books will still be on a shelf to one side (let’s face it, they make great gifts for our artsy friends), along with a multitude of blank journals, cards and exotic writing tools. Books are not going away, just changing format. Kind of like the Edsel and 8-track. People are not reading less, just fewer printed books. Publishers and bookstores need to evolve and we readers need to help them see how to do it.
At the same time, we can only hope that Amazon will continue to set the good example when it comes to authors and teach the big publishing companies that squeezing their authors is not a good business model (but that’s a topic for another day). Yes, in my world everybody wins!
Sigh, I hope I live long enough for my future bookstore to come into fruition (in the real world).