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Blog entry by publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin
There are two questions about the impact of digital change on publishing that are just about impossible to answer.
One is: how much of the sale of ebooks is incremental business and how much of it is cannibalization of prior print sales?
The other is: what will be the fate of independent bookstores?
The two are connected.
In-house boutiques are Barnes & Noble’s latest front in the battle with Amazon over their competing e-reader devices.
Lafayette Bookstore in CA has had to close its bricks-and-mortar store, but will keep on trucking as the Bay Area Bookmobile.
"Big Blue" is a bookmobile that was decommissioned from the Ypsilanti (MI) District Library and was acquired and driven to the Bay Area during the week of June 20. The store is having a Saying Goodbye to the Brick-and-Mortar Party Thursday evening that will include "a ritual marking our move from the old to the new--we're doing a bucket brigade to move all the books from the new section of the bookstore into the bookmobile."
The store will have Lafayette Book Store and Bay Area Bookmobile Facebook pages and continue sending out the newsletter. As owner Dave Simpson wrote: "We'll be active there with a schedule of appearances, announcements of author signings and events, and as always, our book recommendations (and you can offer your own!). Come join the conversation!"
At a time when the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is suffering from deep county-wide budget cuts, local booksellers are banding together to offer financial support this August.
Three libraries closed indefinitely June 19, and to keep the remaining libraries open, the book-buying budget was reduced by 58 percent since last fiscal year.
That means the average wait time for a new book is six months - sometimes longer.
"We were able to keep the libraries open with the deals made with the municipalities, city and county, but we still had to make cuts elsewhere," said Angela Haigler, communications and marketing director for Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
To help out, 18 bookstores in the greater Charlotte area have agreed to hold their own three-day book sales and give a portion of profits to the library's book-buying fund.
"Customers will be asked if they're interested in supporting local libraries, and if they're interested, 10 percent of their purchases for that day will go to the libraries," said Edward Lee, general manager of the Books-A-Million at Concord Mills Mall.
A listing of participating stores and additional information at the Charlotte Observer.
Online competition forces price cuts on used books
The rise of the digital book has prompted one of Detroit's last independent bookstore operators, John K. King, to promote cutthroat pricing in an attempt to keep alive his two satellite used bookstores.
"What I can't stand is the free pass the e-books are getting," King said. "Like they are the greatest things and they have no negative aspect. Besides the closing of bookstores like mine, what about the toxic nature of those devices? Books are biodegradable."
Tough times, but some bookstores have a different story
But while some of the competition is retrenching or worse, BakkaPhoenix, which recorded a double-digit increase in sales last year, is expanding. In stark contrast to the recently shuttered This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, BakkaPhoenix is readying a fall move from the Queen St. W. location it currently rents to the larger, two-storey Harbord St. digs it has purchased.
The New York Times reports that later this summer, Google plans to introduce its long-awaited push into electronic books, called Google Editions. The company has revealed little about the venture thus far, describing it generally as an effort to sell digital books that will be readable within a Web browser and accessible from any Internet-connected computing device.
Now one element of Google Editions is coming into sharper focus. Google is on the verge of completing a deal with the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, to make Google Editions the primary source of e-books on the Web sites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country, according to representatives of Google and the association.
The partnership could help beloved bookstores like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore.; Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif.; and St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York. To court the growing audience of people who prefer reading on screens rather than paper, these small stores have until now been forced to compete against the likes of Amazon, Apple and Sony.
The Google deal could give them a foothold in this fast-growing market and help them keep devoted customers from migrating elsewhere.
I am a huge fan of the book store, the library and all things book-related. The library has narrowly edged out the bookstore as my favourite air-conditioned hang-out (I do not have air conditioning) because of the free wifi. But is that enough? Can the bookstores and libraries of this world stay viable and relevant in this age of e-downloads?
I think they can. But they need to expand their definition of business a little if they’re going to do so. One clue as to how this may evolve can be found in the way other businesses are updating themselves these days. And in my news feed these days, the big buzzword has been the ‘hub.’