Coming Back from Beyond? Booksellers and Ebooks


“In this market, you could actually pick up market share simply because you’re the only major bookseller left,” ~John Tinker, a media analyst at the Maxim Group

The above quote is from a July 22 article from The New Yorker, entitled "Ebook vs. Pbook" by James Surowiecki. (Great article! follow the link).

Ultimately, I prefer to browse the shelves of a bookstore, roaming among the aisles and picking up books at a whim. I confess, I have a Kindle. I actually love it, but a few things became abundantly clear to me when I started purchasing books for it.

1. Having an ereader appeals to the hoarder, or the instant society that has overtaken us all. No longer do we have to wait in anticipation for the next installment when we find a new author. We are able to browse amongst their backlog and find something else to ease that need for a read. But am I alone by saying that I will probably never read half of the books I downloaded. Once I got a look at the first page and was able to get a feel for a writer's style, I found that many of them were not to my liking.

2. Not all ebooks are created equal. Just as not all paper books are of the same quality, the same could be said for ebooks. Enough said.

3.Nothing can replace contact, human nature and good-old-fashioned communication. This is the true gold behind any successful bookstore, their ability to connect with the readers and give them what they want. No matter how good the marketing material, nothing beats good word of mouth. And if you can get an enthusiastic bookseller behind you... you can ride it to the bestseller lists. This is what the smaller bookstores do well. They don't have the money to back them or the distribution, but they do have the ability to connect.

I tend to think of the downsizing of the bookseller trade as being much like the end of the dot.com push, or the 80's more-is-more, that so many company's had to find a way to recover from. Barnes and Noble is not dead. I don't believe that the Independent Bookseller is dead. I think there is room for everyone. We just need to figure out where that is. And there are lessons to be learned from both the demise of big chains like Borders and the nail-biting hanging-on that B&N has managed until now. There are lessons to be learned from all those smaller stores that closed. And there are lessons to be learned from Amazon, the consumer, and the authors. Starting over is always an option. You only fail if you don't keep trying.

I don't believe that books will ever become obsolete. There will always be those who prefer the joy of holding it, turning down the pages and reveling in the anticipation of an adventure. There's room there for all. We just have to find the common ground and learn from those around us.



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