Bookstores slow descent

Eoin Purcell

Bookshop doom
For all the worry and chatter in the publishing and bookselling world, Scott Karp’s post today really strikes to the heart of the current dilemma bookshops face:

I used to love bookstores — they were magical places where the whole world of information and stories was at your fingertips. But I realized today that the bookstore has begun its slow decent into obsolescence, just like every analogue media institution. The bookstore has been replaced by the Web as the place of wonder, and there’s no turning back.

The realization came as it does for most people when searching a store for a book that it turns out is just so much easie rto buy online:

I didn’t find a copy of Everything Is Miscellaneous — the inventory system suggested I try another store, where the book “might” be in stock (the system is not real time). Traveling across town for information seemed about as reasonable as using into a horse and buggy to do so.

And book publishers too
Strangely the unheralded side swipe (perhaps not even intention) at book publishers is as understated as his kicking of booksellers:

business books by truly interesting minds presenting paradigm shifting ideas have the artwork quality of fiction — they still have the power to stand on their own. Such books are rare but will probably endure longer than most business books, which are already being killed off by business blogs.

For now, I’m more than happy to visit David’s Everything Is Miscellaneous blog, where he does the one powerful thing he isn’t able to do in a book: dynamically link. Just reading several posts, I’ve already discovered other interesting blogs and interesting sites. I was able to browse topics I’m interested in, like journalism, and discover other topics of interest by browsing the tags.

Scott is explaining the forces undermining the BOOK INDUSTRY in the post and the sad part is that all of it is true.

Lots of thinking to do on this one
Eoin

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9 comments

  1. I still love to shop independent book stores. The big megastores like barnes and nobels are killing the bookstores. The net is just the latest nail in the coffin. The smaller independent book stores that will survive are the ones that specialize. Say in only science fiction or only cookbooks. The used bookstores are still doing ok. I don’t think the bookstore is dead yet, at least I hope not…

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  2. Clapso,

    thanks for the comment!
    I hope you are right because I do so love books! They have a power over me! Especially when there are lots of them! Like in bookstores.
    Eoin

  3. Yes, that is what books have over electronic media. There is a physical aesthetic to books that a computer will never match…

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  4. Another great post Eoin 🙂 I have to say even as a book obsessive (the type who has even bought multiple copies of the same book in different editions!) I buy online maybe 50% of the time – the main reason being choice/selection and also the fact that I might be browsing online, see a book recommendation, and think ‘ooh I’ll order that now’, so often it’s a spur of the moment thing. If I see a review in a paper/offline I’ll probably buy it offline too.

    I used to work in bookstores for 4 or 5 years, so I guess by buying online I might have been making myself unemployed lol. But seriously, I’ll always buy a certain amount in bookstores (especially my local independent stores) because you usually find something by accident while walking around the shelves and it’s nice to be able to pick up a book and read a paragraph or so before buying it. Well that and the fact that buying books gives me a warm glow 🙂

  5. I love big bookshops. They’re great for browsing in. Small bookshops in contrast are bit depressing as the guy behind the counter is probably the owner and he will feel all sadface when you leave without buying anything. And small bookshops have no stock.

  6. Ian – i concur about the bigger bookshop comment – i have on occasion been the only customer in a small bookshop and have purchased something – anything!- for that very reason. And to paraphrase someone in another context, it’s not size, it’s what you do with it. The way forward for non generic bookshops is to become specialists at some element of their business – by carrying modern first editions, being the best in the country for cookery books, or books on deer taxidermy ( well not really that, but you know what I mean.) I buy about 3 books per week on average, from a wide range – e – bay, publisher websites , abebooks, the bookshop I work in, our competition, …. everywhere. I think most dedicated book buyers are the same. And most of thelm never pass a GOOD bookshop, but what they will pass buy is a poor one.
    I note with interest the new trend by publishers to sell more books directly online – many in signed or limited edition format – see the new random house Uk site as an example.

  7. I just don’t think ‘books will die’ – not for a long while, anyway. No one talks (much) about e-zines replacing magazines, do they? Why not? Why is it all focused on books?

    I think business books and non-fiction books reference books will eventually find that online sales and distro is more successful because, as noted, their ability to link. But cookbooks, fiction books, glossy coffee table books, Bibles, gift books…? The market may get smaller and change dramatically but printed books will live on.

    L.

  8. I do love big bookshops, the biggest of the kind is Borders out in Blanchardstown, a great place to shop.

    L.
    They do talk about the web taking print revenue, newspapers are being squeezed very badly right now by a combination of free online content, craigslist (and other free listings services) and newer more nimble rivals in the online sphere.

    Magazines are not having a good time of it either same reasons. i don’t think either will die any time soon, nor do I think books will but we do face the same challenges and bookshops do too.

    we need to find ways to adapt and generate revenue despite those challenges, that’s why the threat to bookshops is a big one for publishers.

    Eoin

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