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07 January 2012

A Bookseller Writes…

I share with you a profoundly thought-out response to the question,"What is the future of books?" And if publishers want to continue publishing books, how do they propose to distribute them? There is a place in the future for brick-n-mortar bookstores, but who determines it?

I feel that Books on First is already very much a "showroom" for books as well as for magazines.  And, we pay for the "demos" through return freight and restocking fees, deep discounted sales below cost for non-returnable copies, and simply non-sales which we donate to the local prison, the local library and troops stationed overseas, but that act of generosity does not pay the rent.  With magazines at least, no one denies that our racks are mere showcases for potential readers. 

I agree that we are long overdue on changing the way publishers do things in this industry.  Printed bound advance reader copies?  They have mistakes in them.  They go out to (one hopes) hundreds of booksellers, book reviewers and others.  So, there is cost of printing, paper and freight.  They should not be printed bound paper copies (even while I personally prefer the bound hardcopy, I know this).  Publishers should consider sending out electronic versions compatible with the IndieBound Reader App or the Google eBook reading format.

It is true that most of the American Booksellers Association/IndieBound's efforts are focused on the electronic book, but that's because it is dedicated to educating would-be booksellers. With limited resources and a group of near-Luddites like myself, it is no wonder to me that IndieBound needs to direct much of the organization's attention to getting members on board with e-books.  However, I agree that its vision is too limited.  Electronic books are not another format, like hardcover versus paperback versus audio (which one can further finely divide into tape cassette, CDs and MP3 recordings) as we were lectured some four years ago.  This is a new format, to be sure, but it is a game-changer.  The internet is a game-changer.  And, let me correct myself, what we're discussing is not a game.  Our trade organization needs to do more.

And for those references to Ben Austen's article "The End of Borders and the Future of Books," I give you the link here: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/the-end-of-borders-and-the-future-of-books-11102011.html and thank Bloomberg Business Week for enabling the permalink.

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