The Shatzkin Files


Why are you for killing bookstores?


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No news from here today; just rumination.

Those of us in the book business have to choose which anti-social position we want to take.

Some people are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks. They can be cheaper. They don’t require paper which pollutes when you create it and adds carbon footprint every time you ship it around. They have much greater functionality, or at least the potential for it. They enable business models that don’t require capital-intensive infrastructure.

But have you thought about this? If you are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks, you are for killing bookstores faster.

Although there are probably few people reading this blog who expect bookstores to be around in 15 or 20 years (and those who do will undoubtedly leave a comment!), there are many who would like to keep them around as long as possible. There is a magic to being in a building surrounded by 40,000, 60,000, 100,000 different books. Bookstores are inherently community centers. They make possible the wide dissemination and promotion of great writing. They enable people to see heavily-illustrated books before they purchase them.

But have you thought about this? If you are for bookstores lasting as long as possible, you want to slow down the uptake of ebooks.

As individuals, which side you’re on is a matter of personal preference. Although I have mostly read ebooks for more than 10 years and haven’t read a printed book in two years, I am for bookstores lasting as long as possible. It’s a “health of society”and a “health of my industry” question for me. I think both will be much poorer when bookstores go away.

My societal preference isn’t enough to motivate a self-indulgent guy like me to inconvenience myself, so I read electronically, not on paper. But it does not distress me to remain part of a small minority. It helps keep bookstores alive.

Individuals decide this question on personal preference; businesses think about competitive advantage.

Barnes & Noble and the biggest legacy publishers clearly have an interest in slowing down ebook uptake. Even though B&N and the big publishers are now in the ebook business, their competitive advantage exists heavily on the print side. They recognize that they have to live in the ebook world to serve the authors and customers they’ve had for years, so they do. But I don’t think a single big player in legacy publishing could give you a convincing description of how they maintain their scale and power when digital becomes the rule and print the exception. Can that day possibly be more than 20 years away? Might it be 10? I know a man that will take a bet that it will be five.

Apple and Kobo and Google and a slew of new players clearly have an interest in accelerating the growth of the ebook business because that’s the only part of the book business they’re in.

Amazon sells mostly print, but they sell print online. As sales migrate from print to electronic, it is still good for the print business at Amazon. Reducing print sales drives bookstores out of business, one by one. They go out because their sales went down 10% or 20% or 30%. But the remaining 70% or 80% or 90% of their print book business is demand to be redistributed. When a store disappears, some of those sales migrate to online purchases. And most of that moves to Amazon.

And, as we observed on this blog nearly a year ago, Amazon’s position as an online print retailer would be much harder to dislodge than their position as a leading ebook retailer (particularly with a major weapon — discount pricing on hot new titles — apparently being taken out of their hands by Agency pricing.)

Even though I believe that ebook hegemony will be harder for Amazon to defend than their dominance of online print, their strategy of pushing the move to digital reading has paid big dividends so far. Amazon delivered the Kindle, which was the first really great catalyst to move people from print to digital. (The iPhone was probably the second.) It is clear that Amazon gained an enormous first mover advantage by doing that and succeeded in converting a large number of their best book-buying customers to digital.

Both Barnes & Noble and Borders have suffered same-store sales declines for the past two years. Lots of those Kindle owners might have stopped buying some of their books in stores because they switched to electronic reading. They’re locked in to buying from Amazon until either there’s another way to put books on their Kindle or they move on to another device. Amazon created high switching costs for many of the best bookstore customers in the country. So they now own business they used to compete for and, at the same time, diminish their brick-and-mortar competition driving more print book business to the web.

The big legacy publishers’ greatest strength is their unique ability to handle print book distribution. There really are only a handful of companies in this country (the Big Six plus a few distributors and a tiny number of other publishers) that can put a book into every brick-and-mortar outlet where a customer might buy one. Doing that requires capabilities and relationships that you either have now or never will.

Although the big publishers and big authors have been allies fighting Amazon’s selling policies because they want to preserve print-driven book pricing, in the longer run their interests diverge. As ebook sales keep rising as a percentage of the total, the big publishers’ position weakens and the big authors’ position strengthens.

The book business has always been one with very low financial barriers to entry. Ebook publishing makes getting into the game even cheaper. It is also going to bring increased competition to book publishers from content-creators outside publishing. None of this is appealing if your power as a publisher is the ability to control shelf space and get fast reprints.I don’t think anybody would want to be accused of being in favor of killing bookstores faster. And very few of us would be comfortable having it said we were trying to slow down the progress of digital technology, strategizing to slow down ebook uptake. But you are for one or the other, unless you don’t have any opinion at all.

Those of us in the book business have to choose which anti-social position we want to take.
Some people are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks. They can be cheaper. They don’t require paper which pollutes when you create it and adds carbon footprint every time you ship it around. They have much greater functionality, or at least the potential for it. They enable business models that don’t require capital-intensive infrastructure.
But have you thought about this? If you are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks, you are for killing bookstores faster.
Although there are probably few people reading this blog who expect bookstores to be around in 15 or 20 years, there are many who would like to keep them around as long as possible. There is a magic to being in a building surrounded by 40,000, 60,000, 100,000 different books. Bookstores are inherently community centers. They make possible the wide dissemination and promotion of great writing. They enable people to see heavily-illustrated books before they purchase them.
But have you thought about this? If you are for bookstores lasting as long as possible, you want to slow down the uptake of ebooks.
As individuals, which side you’re on is a matter of personal preference. Although I have mostly read ebooks for more than 10 years and haven’t read a printed book in two years, I am for bookstores lasting as long as possible. It’s a “health of society”and a “health of my industry” question to me. I think both will be much poorer when bookstores go away.
My preference doesn’t extend to personally inconveniencing myself, so I read electronically, not on paper. But it does not distress me to remain part of a small minority. It keeps bookstores alive.
On the other hand, many businesses have a vested stake in this question.
Barnes & Noble and the biggest legacy publishers clearly have an interest in slowing down ebook uptake. Even though B&N and the big publishers are now in the ebook business, their competitive advantage exists heavily on the print side.
Apple and Kobo and Google and a slew of new players clearly have an interest in accelerating the growth of the ebook business because that’s the only part of the book business they’re in.
Amazon sells print, but they sell print online. As sales migrate from print to electronic, it is a double-edged sword for Amazon. Reducing print sales drives bookstores out of business, one by one. They go out because their sales went down 10% or 20% or 30%. But the remaining 70% or 80% or 90% of their business remains in print. When a store disappears, some of those sales move to online purchases. And most of that moves to Amazon.
And, as we observed on this blog nearly a year ago, Amazon’s position as an online print retailer would be much harder to dislodge than their position as a leading ebook retailer (particularly with a major weapon — discount pricing on hot new titles — apparently being taken out of their hands by Agency pricing.)
Despite our contention that ebook hegemony will be harder for Amazon to defend than their dominance of online print, the evidence is that Amazon has decided that the fastest possible shift to digital is best for them. That’s why they have pushed Kindle so hard. That’s why they have pushed Kindle pricing so hard.
The big legacy publishers’ greatest strength is their unique ability to handle print book distribution. There really are only a handful of companies in this country (the Big Six plus a few distributors and a tiny number of other publishers) that can put a book into every brick-and-mortar outlet where a customer might buy one. Doing that requires capabilities and relationships that you either have now or never will.
Although the big publishers and big authors have been allies fighting Amazon’s selling policies because they want to preserve print-driven book pricing, in the longer run their interests diverge. As ebook sales keep rising as a percentage of the total, the big publishers’ position weakens and the big authors’ position strengthens.
The book business has always been one with very low financial barriers to entry. Ebook publishing makes getting into the game even cheaper. It is also going to bring increased competition to book publishers from content-creators outside publishing.
I don’t think anybody would want to be accused of being in favor of killing bookstores faster. And very few of us would be comfortable having it said we were trying to slow down the progress of digital technology, strategizing to slow down ebook uptake. But you are for one or the other, unless you don’t have any opinion at all.
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  • Why do you assume the one negates the other? Here's an excerpt from a blog post I'm working on that shows the outcome I'd like to see:
    —————————————————————-
    During your lunch break, you decide to go to a nearby bookstore to buy a copy of the ebook novel you just finished (and for which you immediately bought and downloaded the sequel via a handy link embedded on the last page of the ebook), for your mother. She’s an old school bibliophile who only reads books in hard copy, so you head over to one of the many kiosks for the store’s print-on-demand book machines. You look up the title and click an onscreen button to order a copy. You also opt to fill out an onscreen form to have the book printed and bound in a centralized POD facility and shipped directly to your mother, saving you the trouble of packing and mailing the book yourself. All around you, other customers are browsing available titles on large touchscreens positioned in the tabletops of the shop’s café and on swing arms next to big, comfy chairs.

    It occurs to you that you ought to pick up a travel guide for your upcoming backpacking trip. Your [multipurpose digital device] won’t be coming with you on this trip, so you browse the POD kiosk's travel guide offerings—it offers just about every book currently in print, so your choices are many—and order one of them. What the heck, you figure, you may as well get a hard copy of that new novel you downloaded in e this morning to take with you, too. You quickly look up the digital copy on your [multipurpose digital device] to find the included discount code for purchase of a hard copy of the same book, and punch it in at the kiosk.

    You stop by the snack counter to grab a drink and a sandwich, then you walk over to the bookstore checkout line, where freshly-printed and –bound copies of your books are waiting for you, along with the details of your book order for shipment to your mother. The sales clerk advises you the travel guide you’ve purchased includes an enhanced digital copy with purchase of hard copy; you can either wirelessly download it here in the store, or visit the publisher’s website and download it later, using a custom-generated passcode printed on the last page of the POD book. Pressed for time, you decide you’ll opt for the latter.
    ————————————————————
    So, why can't this happen?

    • Hey April, the books would be printed out at the kiosk in your mother's town and delivered by hand (or bicycle or Vespa or Segway, depending on where she lives) and accompanied by a bouquet of fresh flowers. How about that?

      • Well Maureen, that would certainly justify a higher pricetag, wouldn't it? ;') But actually, I just imagined standard snail-mail delivery to her door.

      • I'm with Maureen. As long as you're dreaming up a scenario that appeals to
        you, why not add the Segway and the flowers!

        Mike

    • It's a vision with appeal. And I wouldn't say it won't or can't happen
      anywhere. But it will not happen very much.

      Bookstores have been steadily disappearing for ten years. Perhaps you see
      something on the horizon to reverse that trend. Everything I see looks like
      it will accelerate it.

      Mike

  • I hate zero-sum scenarios, but you've posited one that has actual merit.

    In the end, I think bookstores will survive (though severely transformed, as every retail business has been) because the movement to digital will not be as dramatic as it was for the music industry. The techies can build a better bookshelf, and they can take the contents of a book and expand upon it, but they won't be able to deliver a true replacement for the book itself.

    • rorqualmaru

      I agree but posit there's one segment of the e-book business that could benefit both the brick and mortar retailer and the consumer. That corner of the market being technology and computer books which tend to age into dead and expensive stock for book retailers and do the consumer no good either. There are very few computer reference books that have stood the test of time.

      • In 2010, doesn't “computer reference book” qualify as an oxymoron?

        Mike

    • Guy, saying “bookstores will survive” is a statement very unlikely to be
      proven false. You could say “record stores have survived” and find an
      example out there somewhere, I'm sure. I am not sure that the
      “transformation” you describe won't resemble the “extinction” I am
      expecting.

      But I'd say bookstores have already not survived and that the conditions
      that have led to their decline will eventually lead to their effective
      demise. I heard earlier on my blog from somebody in Orange County who says
      the nearest bookstore is half an hour away. My sister-in-law, who lives in
      Hoboken, told me the B&N there is closing which will leave zero bookstores
      in a hot little city that is home to lots of brains and lots of money.

      *Used* bookstores, with perhaps a few new books in them, will be the
      cockroaches that survive in this business. Which is fair enough, since used
      *books*, or the ability to transact them easily on the web, has been a
      crucial element of driving book buying to the web and away from
      brick-and-mortar.

      Mike

      • I think you're missing your favorite angle when it comes to bookstores, though: niche.

        When everything is online and accessible, discoverability becomes an issue. You see this already in the App Store, and you see it in Google search results that Bing's marketing nailed so perfectly. Digitization won't be nirvana for books any more than it's been for music.

        As for the B&N in Hoboken, I'd argue that has more to do with the cost of real estate in an affluent city whose primary focus is on food and drink. Most Hoboken residents work in NYC, and there are major bookstores within walking distance of almost every PATH station on the other side of the Hudson.

        Meanwhile, there's Symposia (http://symposia.us), a local indie bookstore/community center, which in an interesting twist, also sells books online via Amazon: http://amazon.com/shops/symposia

        It's a brave new world and only the innovative will survive. That applies to publishers just as much as it does to bookstores.

        Ever optimistic! 😉

      • I admire your optimism, Guy.

        And I agree that “vertical” is the answer. The way I see it, the *only* hope
        for a brick-and-mortar store depending on local customers for books is to
        become a global destination for *something. *I am not aware of any store
        that has pursued that strategy. Being a community center that sells through
        Amazon doesn't qualify.

        Of course real estate prices in Hoboken are a factor in Amazon's decision.
        And the amount of business done at brick-and-mortar affects what rent a
        bookstore can afford to pay. It's a circular argument.

        Mike

      • Hi Mike,

        I run the bookstore at Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. I am pursuing the strategy you propose: I am the online global destination for all things Eric Carle, including both books and non-book items. I buy up product and book inventories when they go out of production, I carry foreign language versions of Eric Carle books. I am the only bookseller doing this. I control the price for quite a few unique items that are in high demand: this store alone has hundreds of copies of numbers of titles, and I feed these out at a very high markup per unit to customers in Sweden, Taiwan, Australia and the U.S.

        Meanwhile, I have no fears for the extinction of my enormously protected bookstore. This past weekend I had a dozen customers at least tell me that they thought they had died and gone to heaven while shopping in my bookstore.

        Here's a blogpost I wrote that gives a bit of background.
        http://www.carlemuseum.org/blog/?p=702

        Bookstores that develop the level of uniqueness that I have developed here will survive. And I personally have met quite a number of young people who intend to achieve this.

        Andy Laties,
        Author, “Rebel Bookseller: How To Improvise Your Own Indie Store And Beat Back The Chains”

      • Thanks for the report, Andy. that's the wonderful thing about niches; one
        can flourish in one that most of us don't even know exists!

        Mike

  • KassiaKrozser

    “If you are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks, you are for killing bookstores faster.”

    Mike — I know we've had this discussion before in other venues, but A does not necessarily equal B. First off, what does “rapid possible adoption of ebooks” mean? If we were talking about the textbook space, that's one thing. Trade space, it's another. Developing countries without any bookselling infrastructure, it's still another.

    I personally believe that smart booksellers will figure out how to combine a good mix of print with the convenience of digital (I am heartened by the thinking of my own local bookstore, even if they are tied to the ABA system, limiting their potential). Digital discovery is only one method. As a species, we have different learning styles, and bookstores, in particular, appeal to at least two of them.

    That being said, it's partially the responsibility of booksellers to be responsive to changing habits of readers (are they really changing, or are we seeing the industry finally addressing real needs of real readers?). I trust that my bookstore will accomplish this. But my bookstore, even with two branches and the acquisition of a new store, cannot possibly fit every book into the store. Nor should they. Using a smart mix of print and digital, they will meet the needs of customers, not all of whom want or need a print book…but need the guidance of smart curators, booksellers, gurus to point them to the right book. I am not convinced the best algorithms in the world will ever be able to compete with the human brain.

    Final thought. I am reminded of a Twitter conversation from a year ago. An indie bookseller complained about the habit of bloggers of pointing to Amazon*. A blogger pointed out that independent bookstores haven't done much to support her reading style (genre fiction), so why would she point her readers to stores that didn't stock what they wanted to read? What ensued was a great back and forth, with the bookseller understanding one consumer group and the blogger making an effort to be more inclusive.

    I don't hate bookstores, but I read purely digital, as you do. I still buy print books, but I am more selective about the print I buy. I still need the expertise a bookstore provides me, and I don't get that from Amazon. My desire to hasten the availability of ebooks does not mean I want to kill bookstores.

    My concern is that bookstores aren't willing or able to meet my needs as a customer.

    * — And, frankly, given the difficulty of setting up IndieBound or Barnes & Noble affiliate accounts, you can understand why Amazon wins on this level.

    • Kassia, I think you're not facing the responsibility we share as digital
      readers for helping to destroy one of America's great social and cultural
      institutions of the 20th century.

      The thing I don't get about people who say “they won't die” is why they
      think that the pattern of the last 10 years — which is that they DO die —
      will suddenly reverse itself.

      Mike

      • Steve

        Mike,

        Projecting a linear curve indefinitely is always dubious, as stock market investors found out a year or two back.

        In some of the newer models of evolution the balance of existing species can change as a new equilibrium is found. In the absence of a reliable model of publishing economics, a shrunken niche foor bookstores is at leas as plausible as extinction. I don't think anybody actually knows one way or the other.

        -Steve

      • I am not predicting a linear curve. I am positing an inverse relationship.
        They aren't the same thing.

        Mike

  • Those buildings with 1000s of books that you speak so fondly of are called libraries. Those are the community centres, not bookstores. Bookstores are commercial businesses and the idea that they need to be subsidized for cultural reasons is a way to guilt consumers into buying from a business model that is failing. It's not the consumer's job to prop up the business model. It's the business owner's job to revamp the business model.

    • I see your point, but you also have to understand that book sales drive publishers to stay in the “printing” business in the first place. Do you think that publishing houses would keep printing books if they could only sell them to libraries? Not only wouldn't they, they couldn't. It would be cost prohibitive. So without the large print shops you'd be reduced to libraries with digital catalogs; and with that, libraries as community centers will also cease to be.

      • Melissa

        Is it really just bookstores that do that, though? I don't read ebooks (I consider them to be too expensive when you consider that they are far, far less flexible, in terms of what I, the buyer, can do with them after I have purchased them), and yet I still do a lot of my book buying online. Print books don't have to be sold via physical bookstores, and print books don't necessarily need physical bookstores to survive.

        I'll take a library over a physical bookstore any day. I can read as much or as little as I want without going broke, I have yet to meet a bookstore salesperson who can help me find something new to read that I'd like better than many librarians, I can feel free to experiment with a new genre or author with no risk, I can find books that are no longer in print with less difficulty – the list goes on. In addition, unlike many physical bookstores I've been to, libraries have value beyond the print books one can find in them – libraries employ librarians, who are trained in organizing, making accessible, and searching the increasingly vast amount of information available.

      • andyross797

        Glad you brought up libraries. I've been thinking a lot about libraries in the digital future. As of now, e-books are non-transferable. How does that fit in with libraries? Are publishers going to grant libraries licenses to allow members to download any book for two weeks? One of the advantages of buying a book instead of going to a library is that you can get what you want now and not wait. The other advantage is that you don't have to go to the library. But if libraries are allowing members to download instantaneously on wi-fi, then this poses some challenges to e-book publishers and authors. Any thoughts?

        And while we are at it, what does the e-book future bode for used book stores. I'm not sure that there is going to be a market for previously scanned electrons.

      • I have thought and written about libraries. I think publishers will have to
        stop the model of allowing unlimited lending from libraries when ebook
        uptake hits some level. Why would anybody go to a site to buy one if they
        can go to a site to borrow one for as long as they need to read it?

        I think used bookstores (probably selling a few new books) will last longer
        than new. For the curiosity and antique value. But they won't be in the
        busiest part of town.

        Mike

      • Quite right that press runs are critical-mass beasts. If you can only print
        a few hundred instead of a few thousand, the price of a unit really goes up.

        On the other hand, we're talking about a day when the printed book becomes a
        relative “elite” item. The ultimate model that makes sense is “this book (as
        an ebook) is $8; if you want us to print it up and bind it for you, that
        will be $20.”

        Mike
        ——————–
        Mike Shatzkin
        /blog
        [email protected], 212-758-5670
        Founder & CEO
        The Idea Logical Company, Inc.,
        Co-founder: Filedby, Inc. http://filedby.com
        Conference Chair: Digital Book World http://digitalbookworld.com

    • Anysia, you certainly are an unsentimental person!

      You're right that libraries remain. And I'm not suggesting any extraordinary
      measures to save bookstores. I guess the difference between us is that I am
      sorrowful about their passing. You seem joyful.

      Mike

      • Tkejlboom

        I'm joyful. Little corner bookstores seem long gone. The loss of megalithic corporate mongers causes no pangs whatsoever. I never felt a sense of empathy or comradery with the people behind the counter there. Most didn't read, or looked askance at Tolkien and McKiernan before settling back with their vampire novel. Am I the only one that doesn't like Twilight? Gosh, what a publishing gem! Aren't you glad that professional publishers are looking out for consumer interests by producing and promoting those books?

      • I'm sorry about it. But it doesn't make me buy and read paper books.

        Mike

    • Tako_meg

      What was the last book that you read, Anysia? and do you ever wish to go to the bookstores again?

  • mboezi

    “But you are for one or the other, unless you don’t have any opinion at all.”

    Not true, at least for me. As long as I keep getting information, ideas, inspiration, etc. – I don't care if it's in paper or otherwise. It's about what's contained within, not the format itself. Formats change.

  • I praised the piece on Twitter (@LibraryThingTim), but, also noted that it didn't mention libraries. This isn't your fault, but I think it shows the extent of the problem for libraries. I started a comment here but it grew too long, so here's a blog post in reply, and extending your argument to libraries.

    http://www.librarything.com/thingology/2010/02/

    • Tim, thanks for the link to your post which I think is very good. And on the
      money.

      I didn't comment on libraries because their extinction is not so near. And
      because the ebook paradox isn't the same for them.

      But I completely subscribe to (and have also previously commented upon) the
      notion that publishers won't be able to continue to permit libraries to lend
      ebooks the way they lend print books. I think your ideas about the potential
      economic model are quite reasonable.

      Mike

  • I don't think that the matter is as cut and dry as many might think. The ease of transition from in store music purchases to online purchases was made far easier by the scaling involved. Many people simply want one or two songs off an album rather than the whole thing. It's always been this way, as songs are generally complete works in and of themselves. Chapters of a book are not, so the analogy doesn't really work on that level. Although, in the end, this likely won't stop the migration so much as it will lengthen it.

    But the other side of this is that books can't be enjoyed passively as music can be. There's an action involved in reading that doesn't need to exist in listening. A person must have the content in front of them to do it, whether in paper or digital form. So I think there is a very real connection to words on a page that won't be easy to break. People must make the effort to read, so they think about it differently.

    As an example (and I realize its a small one), I work in a book store. I have have had numerous conversations with patrons who want both print and digital to survive, and will gladly pay for both; and sometimes, even for the same book in both mediums. In any case, we've a long way to go in this whole thing. I'll be interested to see where we are this time next year.

  • Steve

    Mike,

    you said:

    “There is a magic to being in a building surrounded by 40,000, 60,000, 100,000 different books. Bookstores are inherently community centers. They make possible the wide dissemination and promotion of great writing. They enable people to see heavily-illustrated books before they purchase them.”

    What you are saying here is that bookstores CREATE VALUE above and beyond their role as a distribution channel. Basic economics suggests that there will always be those who will pay a premium for that added value.

    Additionally, your view of the inevitably of ereader/ebook adoption cannot help but be biased by your personal status as one of the minority who actually prefers such stuff. The adopters of personal information appliances are a demographic “a mile wide and an inch deep”. I.e. tech geeks and the college-educated affluent. It only looks ubiquitous if you're sitting in the middle of it. On this blog you preach to the choir, and they sing your song. Would the music be as sweet in a B & N?

    But I guess I must agree, ereaders will replace print just like TV replaced movies – err… wait a minute….

    -Steve

    • sdcoburn

      Movie theaters and television offer different experiences. You go out to the movies for the immediacy — you see them first. You go for the big screen, the sound, for the grease-laden popcorn. You go for the social experience. Television allows you flexibility. You can watch in your jammies, you can pop your own popcorn that doesn't cost as much a nice lunch, you can talk and leave your cell phone on without being offensive.

      If publishers put out new releases in bound versions first, then people might go to the bookstore to be the first to read a particular book. If bookstores continue to provide cafés, free wi-fi, comfy couches and tables so that people can congregate and socialize, people will still frequent them. (Of course, that means patrons need to buy the $4.00 coffee and an occasional book or e-book. They have to pay the rent.)

      People who are willing to wait can by-pass the bookstore experience and simply download their favorite books any time, anywhere — jammies allowed.

      I think the bigger concern is to keep people reading — period. I am appalled by the number of adults I know who don't even read one book in a year.

      I don't have an e-reader yet, but I know the time is coming. In the 80s, I thought this Internet thing would never be popular. It wouldn't have been, had everyone continued to pay $8.00 an hour to look at green print on a black screen accessed at a snail's pace. But computer technology changed, making the Internet a fun, affordable, and now almost necessary experience. When the price and technology hit a certain point, e-books will explode in popularity. I don't think print books will totally disappear — but they may become so valuable you have to chain them to the library wall like in the days before the printing press.

    • Steve, printed books will outlive bookstores. And, in fact, I think most
      people buying books in bookstores *do* pay for the privilege, as your
      economic analysis suggests they will. They could frequently get the book
      cheaper in a mass merchant or online. So that's true.

      It is also true that bookstores have been disappearing for ten years or
      more. People debate the *reasons* for that, but nobody debates the *fact* of
      it. I think the main reason is online purchasing and the huge amount of
      additional competition it delivers to the stock in any bookstore. That
      effect isn't slowing down. And now it is being compounded by ebook reading.

      We also now have an app in our iPhone that we can point at the book we see
      which will allow us to learn pretty quickly how much we would pay if we
      bought that book online.

      Mike

  • Pablo Avelluto

    Please, I don't think a guilty feeling as a point. Have I killed record stores when I bought my iPod? Maybe. Of course, those charming lovely old bookstores are in trouble. Also those awful, cold bookstores I don't visit, too. But reading is about readers, not just retailers. Of course, there will be less bookstores, as it will be less editors like me in a couple of years. So we can go and cry and blame this world of google, apple and amazon. Or we can try to redesign ourselves, think and create for this new places in which we are living.

    Please, excuse my poor english and regards from Buenos Aires.

  • Eric

    ebooks don't require paper, but the notion that they are “greener” is a myth. The batteries and other materials required to make ebook readers, the power it takes to read them, the non-recyclability of most of their parts and the frequent need to replace them more than offsets any environmental benefit. I'm not saying that ebooks aren't the way of the future, or even that they shouldn't be. But if we're buying ebooks out of a need to be environmentally responsible, we're kidding ourselves.

    • What you say can be true of dedicated ereaders like Kindle, but it is not
      true for the ebooks read on PCs and cell phones, which are devices that
      people have anyway. I think before long most ebooks will be read on devices
      people would have had anyway.

      Mike

  • kwn2196

    Well, I am for reading. One reason I support digital reading is, based on my experience and those of friends, owning an eReader with wireless delivery makes it so easy to buy and read books that people do it more. I know about 12 people with Kindles and one with a Sony. Every one of the Kindle owners reports an increase in reading as well as buying books. At the same time, I know a lot more than 13 people! There are plenty of folks who have no interest in changing to digital reading because they love print books. I don't think print will disappear, but I think it will shrink, and bookstores will shrink with it. I can see a scenarios where the survivors are small niche bookstore that specialize and require less volume to survive.

    Libraries will still be around. Librarians are actually enthusiastic about digital books because they want people to read. And besides, libraries are less invested in a single delivery model than bookstores.

    • Melissa

      It's a bit naive to assume that “libraries will still be around.” They need others' support for that, and sometimes libraries are shut down (or cut nearly to nothing) before the people they served realize what it is they just allowed to die.

      While I (a librarian, by the way) don't necessarily have a problem with new formats, I do have a problem with new formats that are restricted in their use and flexibility to such an extent that libraries may face legal battles just to try to make them available to their patrons. Case in point, the lending of Kindles. Only a few days ago, on a discussion group for librarians, the legality of this (which some libraries are already doing) was discussed – and it turns out that it's technically illegal for libraries to do what they're doing. If they're held to task for it, they either have to stop (which automatically results in the money they spent on the Kindles and ebooks being wasted) or they have to engage in a costly legal battle. Google can afford huge legal battles of this sort; most, if not all, libraries can't.

      • Well, Melissa, I'll never be ashamed at being more naive about matters
        concerning libraries than a librarian.

        The circumstances you describe are unfortunate, but uncertainty is abounding
        for everybody. I don't pretend to know “the answer” to whether
        Kindle-lending is legal, or even whether it ought to be, but it lines up
        alongside a million other questions we don't know the answer to because
        we're in a period of rapid change. You're right that libraries need to be
        funded, but so do bookstores, and library funding still looks like a better
        bet to me over the next few years.

        Mike

      • kwn2196

        To be fair, I think she was calling ME naive, not you. And it's funny because I used to be a librarian! And I never said librarians wouldn't shrink or have a tough time surviving, but I do think they will still be around. If anything, the fact that fiction books as well as information are going digital may help librarians status as gatekeepers. I once had someone ask my why anyone needed a college degree to be a librarian when all they do is stamp the little card in the back of the books.

      • I have long thought that “librarianship” will survive libraries. The more
        resources we have access to, the more we need professional help to sort it
        out. Google aside.

        Mike

  • babetteross

    I certainly hope the stores survive. And everyone else has commented the same things I would have.

    So, im stepping in to say I'm not sure I agree with the greener argument for eBooks, while it is true eBooks “don’t require paper which pollutes when you create it and adds carbon footprint every time you ship it around” they require a “not very recyclable device” that I'm sure will get snazzy updates often enough to keep buyers wanting new devices.

    And devices can be dropped and broken and an whole new device is usually more financially sound than a fixing an older device (based on both my ipod and camera experiences.)

    So, what happens to all the old devices? Surely they aren't all green, correct me if I'm wrong.

    • Babette, you're right about the dedicated devices. But a lot of ebook
      reading already takes place on PCs and iPhones, and more and more of it will
      over time. If the device was going to be there anyway, then the ebook is
      almost totally green. And that's where we're headed, although it is a very
      messy and polluted path to get there.

      Mike

  • donlinn

    I follow the logic but in my judgment it's not as binary as you posit, at least not based on what we know now.

    While there are folks like yourself who read only digitally, there are plenty (like me) who choose to read paper (in all formats) for some titles and digitally when it suits my needs better. The sample size (3% or so of sales) and the nature of early adopters make it difficult to draw conclusions about the future mix that readers will choose.

    Your conclusion is also based on the hypothesis that an digital book sale replaces a print sale on a one-for-one basis. Again, I think we're too early in the game to know if that's the case. Remember that readers (as well as owners of e-reading devices) skew older and we don't yet know whether the overall market will grow or shrink as Gens X, Y etc. mature and what their preferred formats will be.

    So like so many other things in this business, I think we simply don't know what the outcome will be and declaring one channel DOA seems premature.

    • Don, everything you say makes a lot of sense.

      Explain to me what is going on that would cause the clear 10-year trend of
      brick-and-mortar bookstores closing to reverse itself.

      Or, put it another way. If we could agree on the number of superstores and
      stellar independents in the country, in what year going forward do you
      expect that number to grow rather than shrink? Surely not 2010.

      Mike

      • andyross797

        As much as I don't want to say this, I have to agree with Mike that the future of bookstores (independents and chains alike) is very bleak. Electronic books have some significant advantages over paper books. For manufacturing and delivery, of course. But increasingly with improved media readers, a better reading experience as well.

        I walk around my local shopping district. I see boarded up stores. It's depressing and discouraging. The marketplace has been the center of communal activity since the time of the Greek Agora. People talk about the Internet as being the new community. After all, here we are!. But, IMHO, it is a pale imitation of a real community.

        As hard as they have tried, browsing Amazon is not like browsing in a great bookstore. Never has been. Never will be.

        I hear people saying that the bookstores who innovate will survive. Those who don't, won't. That is a nice thought. We hear about it a lot from very glib “positive thinking” type gurus.

        But it just isn't true.

      • Andy, thanks for the support from the voice of very innovative and painful
        experience.

        Mike

      • Steve

        Andy, I think you have at least partly refuted your own thesis.

        You said:

        “As hard as they have tried, browsing Amazon is not like browsing in a great bookstore. Never has been. Never will be.”

        This is actually an important feature of brick and mortar environments that, at least so far, can't be replicated online. If a bookstore can deliver something Amazon can't, people who value that “something” will pay for it.

        Whether they will pay at a price point and in sufficient numbers to cover the cost of maintaining the bookstore is something that doesn't appear to be knowable at this point in time. This whole discussion is becoming a bit like betting on the Superbowl.

        -Steve

      • Steve, what IS knowable at this time is that the willingness of people to
        support bookstores has not been sufficient to prevent a steady decline in
        their numbers for at least a decade. There has been a very clear pattern.

        Mike

      • Steve

        Your reference to that pattern, as though it were more than merely suggestive, is the kind of thing I meant in my earlier comment about extrapolating a linear curve (or trend).

        -Steve

      • andyross797

        Steve, I'm having trouble understanding your point.

        Although some people really do value the bookstore browsing experience, those numbers have declined dramatically. There are some very robust reasons to abandon physical stores and sacrifice those pleasurable experiences. Prices are cheaper on-line. Selection is larger. And it is very convenient.

        Remember that a bookstore doesn't need to lose all its customers before it fails. Given the fixed costs of maintaining a storefront, a loss of 20% will usually bring down a business. This has been proven by experience during the last few years, both for independent stores and for chains.

        My point is that in embracing the virtues of Internet bookselling and e-books, we also need to recognize that something is lost, at least for many of us.

        It is true that people vote with their dollars, but that is not the whole story.

      • Andy, thanks for making the key point that if a brick-and-mortar outlet
        loses some percentage of its business, it can become not viable and
        therefore publishers lose (or have to redistribute) *all *of its business. I
        think very few retail outlets can stand the loss of 20% of their business. I
        believe that the recent figures for B&N were 6% and 7% same store slumps for
        the last two years and that Borders lost 15% in same store sales last year!

        People who love hanging out in bookstores should do it regularly while they
        still have the chance.

        Mike

      • andyross797

        Yea, Mike. I think 20% loss is more than enough to close the doors of a store. There is kind of a dynamic where you try to cut costs, mostly by reducing staff or cutting back on slow moving inventory, but that can cause a downward spiral. After all, one of the reasons people come to the stores is because of customer service and selection. I know a number of stores that dealt with the problem by expanding into non-book merchandise. Although this strategy has had some limited success, what it means is that you keep the bookstore going by making it less of a bookstore. I don't see this as a long term solution to having better community stores.

        There is also the issue that different generations have different values and different behaviors. When I became the owner of Cody's in the 70's, a lot of the customers were students or people in their 20's. I remember the day we closed the Telegraph store, a lot of people came in to honor the memory. And they were pretty old.

        Another problem is that a vast number of catagories that used to support our store disappeared, mostly it became “free” (don't get me started on that) by moving on-line. In the 80's 10% of our business was in computer books. That disappeared. We sold a lot of dictionaries and encylopedias (gone). There are a lot more.

        I talked about this recently in my own blog. I called it “fighting against history”. I will probably anger some people in saying this, but I do feel that there is some inevitablility at work here. It is always dangerous to predict the future. But it is pretty easy to understand the trends.

      • Andy, I am glad you made the point about disappearing categories.

        When I express my paradigm of “verticalization”, the folks whose main
        interests are literary — novels, memoirs, belles-lettres — say, “well how
        do you verticalize *that?*” and there are really two answers.

        One is: every novel is about something. If it is about divorce, there's your
        vertical. If it is about alcoholism, there's your vertical. Think of the
        world of your story and find your vertical media that way.

        But that's not a very satisfying answer to most people so here's the second
        one.

        When a bookstore can't sell computer books or travel books or cookbooks or
        gardening books anymore because the content in those books has moved online
        for free, then the store has to close. The fiction and memoirs that have
        been riding along on the back of all sorts of other things selling to keep
        the store open will just have to come up with another answer. Or there will
        just be less of it. But very few bookstores can survive on literary fare
        alone.

        But nothing like the voice of experience to make the point more emphatic.
        And more credible.

        Mike

      • andyross797

        Mike, I'm sorry I am not familiar with “verticalization”. Sounds like it might be worth discussing sometime. I hope I am not simply being overly influenced by my own not so great recent experience but..

        I don't see a lot of upside potential with community bookstores. Particularly independents. I think they have pretty much faced a “perfect storm”. There is a lot of talk about being “innovative”. It's a big subject with business gurus as well. But “innovation” is not an immutable law. There are great examples like Amazon or Apple. There are also not so great examples like Citigroup and Lehman Bros.

        I'm afraid that there are some limits to innovation with book stores. The only kind of innovations that I can see working are innovations that deprive them of the value and the virtue that they have.

        The best example of innovation in an independent bookstore is Book Passage in Marin County (full disclosure: my wife works there). They have developed a breathtakingly great program of classes, mostly writing classes. They make a lot of money, create the sense of community which bookstores do best, don't detract from the sale of books. But that said, they still must deal with the intractible problems of ruinous discounting, cheap e-books and their attendent technology, chain and internet competition and an aging clientele. I don't see a way around these challenges.

      • Thank you for this. I hadn't factored it in. I never liked cookbooks (book on counter while I'm cooking equals messy book), but I love getting recipes (for free) on the web. I know they are monetized by ads, but since I don't pay attention to the ads, I think of them as free. I use dictionary.com. I use GoogleBooks and wikipedia for quick lookups, and I already have a huge library of resource tomes for more involved research.

        If fiction has been propped up by non-fiction for so long (as I can see it has been, from what you say, and a quick peek back into the history of the novel itself)…wow. Puts a whole new spin on the “value” of fiction.

      • Steve

        Andy,

        There may be less to my point than meets the eye. I'm simply pointing out that (a) There remain incentives for people to shop at bookstores and pay a premium to do so. (b) Economics is a complex system and it is not clear, IMO, whether the present trend signals extinction, or merely decline to a smaller niche.

        It's cool that you owned Cody's for a while! I was in Berkeley most of summer 1969, and used to hang out there. Mario Savio worked there at the time. I was only a few feet away from a living legend – and there he was stocking shelves like a regular person.

        -Steve

      • andyross797

        Steve, ah yes. Mario Savio. That was before my time. Although he did come back and ask me for a job in the 70's.

        For sure the final returns aren't in on this question. And, in fact, the stores that seem to be holding on the best are the very small niche-y neighborhood stores with minimal overhead.

        But as you can read from my threads with Steve, I'm pretty discouraged. The problems facing independents are a kind of perfect storm. There may be away to innovate themselves into a new and robust business model. But I can't see it.

      • Steve

        Andy:

        I see a couple things mentioned in comments plus some observations of my own that may converge to a ray of hope:

        Guy LeCharles Gonzalez:
        “As for the B&N in Hoboken, I'd argue that has more to do with the cost of real estate in an affluent city…”

        andyross797:
        “….very small niche-y neighborhood stores with minimal overhead.”

        And these observations:

        I'm fond of saying that TV didn't kill movies. However, that does NOT mean no theaters closed. I vividly remember the closed theaters of the mid-sixties. Where? In central cities where rents and taxes were high and traffic was declining. The counter-trend? Mall theaters and Super-plexes. This is niche migration, like when climate change forces species migration.

        For whatever it's worth, commercial real estate values appear to be in a decline from a high point in 2007Q3. I had heard this anecdotally, so I Googled it and found this cute chart for retail based on the Moodys/REAL Commercial Property Price Index (CPPI)

        http://mit.edu/cre/research/credl/rca/national/

        I would expect opportunities for entrepreneurial spirits to pioneer a niche migration to low-overhead zones.

        -Steve

      • Good thought, Steve.

        Except that “low overhead zones” might not be where bookstores would
        normally flourish.

        Entrepreneurs are hardy and some will undoubtedly make a store that sells
        books work. But that still might not be enough of a bookstore network to
        satisfy many consumers. Or to keep today's trade publishers alive.

        Mike

      • Steve

        Mike,

        I take your point. My “ray of hope” is not necessarily a searchlight. I think the devil will be in the details. Where are the low-overhead zones geographically, and to what extent do favorable traffic patterns exist or can they be induced. Where will the numbers stabilize for the vaious economic variables that are now in flux.
        Mastery of such details (and favorable “lucky breaks”) would distinguish the successful entrepreneur. I agree that we do not yet know whether the potential niches are plentiful enough to prevent a dwindling to extinction. I prefer to se the glass as half full.

        -Steve

  • Bill

    Thoughtful as usual, Mike.

    While I agree that the mega-bookstores like B&N and Borders are on the way out, it's counter intuitive to think that e-books – which still represent less than 3% of overall sales -can be largely blamed for this. The decline of Borders and B&N was in the tea leaves as soon as Amazon and other online outlets came along. Like Tower Records – the dinosaur equivalent on the music side – the book mega-retailers have been too slow to respond to this shift ensuring their extinction long ago. There is simply no longer a sound business reason to invest in the retail library model when with one search a consumer can now find the title they're looking for online.

    But what if a reader doesn't know the book he or she wants? What none of the current online or e-book outlets are yet effective at is the art of choice selection and suggestive selling. Everyone has a story of the ridiculousness of the Amazon “Customers who bought this title, bought this…” model. The same certainly holds true for B&N, Kobo, and iTunes as well. The number of times I've browsed the Kindle store and come up empty far outweighs the number of times I've browsed and purchased.

    Niche and independent booksellers still have an opportunity here.
    Anyone who has a strong independent bookshop in his or her town knows exactly what I'm talking about. I rely on the buyers and booksellers of Porter Square Books and Harvard Book Store in Cambridge to select those recently published that entice me, to suggest something I may not have known I wanted to read. I rarely leave without something under my arm.

    As publishing professionals, we give a lot of lip service to the business side of the equation and that's as it should be. But in the interest of full consideration, I 'd argue that the “art of bookselling” is often left out of the equation. It's one area in which the e-book and online retailers have a long way to go to successfully compete with the traditional bookshop.

    • First of all, agreed that most of the decline so far has nothing to do with
      ebooks. It has had to do with Internet purchasing. So far.

      But the 3 or 4 percent ebook business is tripling annually. So it is going
      to be 10% plus next year. Could be 25 to 30 percent the year after that. But
      even if it goes from 4% to 10%, if 1% or 2% of sales comes out of
      brick-and-mortar's hide, that's consequential. And it gets worse next year.

      The timetable is debatable. It seems to me that the path is inexorable.

      Mike

    • Steve

      Bill, you said:

      “As publishing professionals, we give a lot of lip service to the business side of the equation and that's as it should be. But in the interest of full consideration, I 'd argue that the “art of bookselling” is often left out of the equation.”

      But what you described as the “art” of bookselling is simply good customer service. Very much part of “business” last time I looked.

      Recently I asked for help locating a particular magazine at B & N. The lady stocking the shelves said “if we have it it would be over there” and pointed. She seemed very offended that I might have expected her to know if they had it or to find somebody who did know. That's *bad* customer service.

      -Steve

      • Everybody's right. There are levels of competence in bookstore customer
        service as there in playing the violin or hitting a golf ball. The clerk
        referred to failed at the most basic level.

        I met a bookseller 30 years ago who told me “if anybody walks up to my cash
        register with five books, I can sell them a sixth.” That's raising bookstore
        customer service — by hand-selling — to a competence level that might be
        referred to as “art.”

        Mike

      • I don't agree that publishers and booksellers can't do anything to affect
        the uptake of ebooks. Publishers do the digitization that makes ebooks
        available (I remember well when “no choices!” was my biggest problem as an
        ebook reader) and retailers are subsidizing artificially low prices to sell
        readers and speed adoption.

        And the tension you describe (didn't read the post; talking about within
        your own business) is the same as Amazon and BN have at the moment, because
        they also sell both print and digital, and BN is selling print in stores.
        That doesn't mean one isn't more important than the other. I suspect your
        own business will be less robust as it shifts more and more from print to e.
        But it does make sense that you try to benefit from both.

        Mike

      • Publishers are actually in a double bind here as they try to slow the uptake of e-books. If they want to prop up the paper business, they have to watch which rights they revert, and yet they can't put every book back into print just because an author instigates rights reversion. The contract is king though. So, after 7 years, if they haven't put books back into print, they have to revert rights to authors who can then go compete with the publishers new e-releases.

        Authors are getting savvy about this (both non-fiction and fiction), requesting reversion in greater numbers, and hopping on the Kindle or Fictionwise train. Publishers either have to reprint the paper books, or revert the rights (both of which are probably unwelcome choices for them). Hence the silly non-compete clauses they're trying to use to stop pre-e-book-contract releases by authors currently in print (which don't work for reverted rights).

  • Shawn Williams

    I love bookstores, but honestly not been to one in months.

  • John Warren

    These are thoughtful and worthwhile comments. BUT the decline of bookstores has been going on for quite some time (recall BEA used to be called the American Bookseller's Association and there were thousands of American bookstores… I recall those days). I don't think there is evidence that the decline of bookstores is causally related to an increase in ebook sales, I would say more likely you're “killing” bookstores by shopping at Walmart or Costco. It is, perhaps, an inevitable decline, except in those rare cases where a bookstore is so much a part of the community and/or specialized that it still attracts an audience. Here in Santa Monica we lost Midnight Special, despite a great love by the community–the community didn't pay with their dollars however, a big Borders (now gone) and Barnes and Noble within blocks helped nail its coffin shut. Even in SF, where bookstores once nearly outnumbered gas stations, we've seen a huge decline of bookstores, long before e-books became a force.
    I certainly see the parallel with music stores, now I can hardly find a store to browse and buy music in physical form, so whether I want to or not I use emusic.com and itunes; the only music store in town, pretty much, is Amoeba, and it's a long drive…

    • I can see now from the past two comments that I needed to express myself
      more clearly.

      You're absolutely right that the longtime decline in bookstores until very
      recently had nothing to do with ebooks. The main culprits were online
      bookselling and the way online bookselling could invoke print-on-demand and
      used books. Ebooks couldn't possibly have had much impact until the arrival
      of the Kindle.

      But, going forward, ebook takeup is definitely going to be the biggest
      factor eroding print book sales and, as they go, so do the bookstores.

      Mike

  • This is an extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I think your analysis of many of the business interests and motivations here is spot on. I truly love the local indie book stores around here like Harvard Books and Wellesley Books (and thus my post 2 years ago Kindle or no, we still need great book stores.

    But I do not think that it's the fast-growing but still tiny ebook market that's really killing great book stores (although that could be an issue eventually way down the line). It's the superstores and big box retailers like Walmart and Costco and the deals that the big publishers cut with them that has been forcing indies out of business for the past two decades or more. Barnes & Noble and Borders are also suffering along with much of the U.S. retail industry which overreached and over-expanded amid a consumer spending boom than now looks obviously unsustainable.

    • Agreed it is not the ebook sales that are most responsible for killing
      bookstores now, but not the Big Box either, Much more about Amazon and sales
      of print books moving online, IMHO.

      Thanks for your kind words on the post. It is the kind of paradox that
      appeals to the devilish side of me.

      Mike

      • I agree that the bookstore is disappearing but I also believe that it's too late to change the trend for a variety of reasons. Those that survive, whether as standalone bookstores or as departments within general retailers will do so because they offer some benefit over online. The Espresso Book Machine, or something like it, would give bookstores (standalone or within other stores), the ability to print-on-demand on-site almost as many books as Amazon can offer, with the added benefit of instant (or almost instant) delivery. Combine that with on-shelf physical copies of top sellers and the option of getting anything as an ebook more cheaply, throw in the sense of community that you feel when in the bookstore, and you might have a way to salvage something. In other words, the way to save the bookstore may not be in holding back one technology but in advancing another: print-on-demand, on-site.

  • Action, not hope.

    If you believe in local bookstores, shop in them. If they don't have what you want, OMFG you might have to wait — ask them to order it for you.

    If you don't do this, you have no one else to blame.

    • Since what *I* want is an ebook in my iPhone, unfortunately no local
      bookstore has what I want. And, frankly, living as I do in the middle of
      Manhattan with a Borders and two Barnes & Nobles in reasonable proximity,
      there is no independent bookstore accessible.

      I don't disagree with your advice politically or culturally, but I'm afraid
      I can't apply it personally.

      Mike

  • Ted R.

    Mike, excellent expansion of the question you posed to me in your response to my comment in your previous post. My answer remains the same: faster ebook adoption even though I believe you're correct that it will kill off bookstores faster. That answer came from my selfish POV, since I've converted completely to ebook reading and because, even though I live in a place like Orange County, CA, bookstores effectively no longer exist in my world. There aren't any within reasonable shopping distance from my present residence.

    After some thought I have another reason: faster change is better for the individuals who make their living through paper books and bookstores. I myself have worked for thirty-five years in the commercial printing industry, mostly unrelated to book publishing though I've been involved with jacket covers and publicity materials. Due to digital conversion of previously printed items such as newsletters, brochures, etc., the appearance of options such as Kinko's, and of course the internet, my prospects for employment have dwindled. Last year in a downsizing due to the economy, I became unemployed. A new job in my area of expertise may not be in the cards.

    In hindsight I wish the shrinking and changing had happened much more quickly. I could have switched careers more easily at forty rather than my current fifty-three years of age. (And be more likely to be hired – age-ism does exist.) For the social good of those in the paper book publishing and bookseller fields, I think the change should come as quickly as possible.

    • Ted, I definitely see the validity in your POV. I'm still rooting for the
      bookstores to stick around as long as possible. We're all the prisoners (or
      products) of our own experiences.

      Mike

  • A Friend

    While I don't disagree with your fundamental analysis (that we're going to see an ongoing decline of physical bookstores), I do disagree with the notion that if you are for the most rapid adoption of ebooks you are *for* killing bookstores faster. While I want my company to have a large and profitable ebook business, I certainly am not for killing bookstores. The way I think about it is that we have to find a way to grow our ebook business and simultaneously do everything we can to develop our physical book business and brick and mortar stores. In the end I don't believe it's possible for publishers or big B & M retailers to 'slow down' adoption of ebooks, and in the end it's not possible to 'save' physical stores if the end consumer decides not to shop in them (for whatever reason). All we can do is work to provide the best digital products and the best physical products and physical shopping experience, and the consumer will take it from there.

    A few years ago I read a great article in Harvard Business Review called 'Managing The Right Tension' (http://hbr.org/product/managing-the-right-tensi…) which I think is relevant to this discussion.

  • Pingback: Why are you for killing libraries? | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home()

  • Honestly, I don't feel we murdered bookstores as much as they committed suicide. For the last few years, most of the time I've tried to find a book in a retail bookstore, the helpful sales clerk has offered to order the book for me and in a few weeks, I can come back to pick it up. By contrast, Amazon will ship the book to me in 2 business days or I can order it on my Kindle for instantaneous wireless download. I used to spend hours per week in retail bookstores. Now, hardly ever.

    • Janet, I suspect the number of people like you is growing and the number of
      people who are willing to pay extra for the bookstores is not.

      Mike

  • linger

    Regarding “Why are you for killing bookstores?”:

    I suppose one possible answer is, “Because they're inefficient.”

    • Steve

      You say “inefficient” as though it were something bad.

    • An unsentimental but, in the full reality of digital time, an accurate,
      assessment. I personally am not in favor of eliminating things just because
      they're “inefficient”, but it is not an unusual or unreasonable point of
      view.

      Mike

  • Arielle Eckstut

    I agree that many of the great, independent bookstores as they currently exist will suffer and then die due to the ebook. However, I don't believe bookstores as a whole will die. As a former literary agent and author who then became an entrepreneur creating products and retail stores in categories people said were hopeless, this is what I would put money on: General bookstores (I think niche bookstores will always have customers) who stay the same , who don't adapt to the changing times will die unless they are owned by the independently wealthy. However, bookstore owners who are entrepreneurial (like Mitchell Kaplan and Elain Petrocelli, to name two), will figure out how to create an environment that is in step with the current book-buying public. Also, new interesting stores/retail environments that are distinctly not bookstores but somehow involve books will be invented. I see it all the time with websites who corner a market and then open their own retail. They do this because they know people like to see/touch/socialize in addition to just buying off the web.

  • What if I don't want to kill bookstores? What if I think that independent bookstores have a place in the e-book business? Remember the old days of bookstores, where the owner knew your name and had recommendations for you, maybe even had saved aside a copy of your favorite hot-selling author? Maybe that place needs to shift on-line, though, so that independent booksellers grow through their rep for customer service (yes, Amazon already does this, but it does it with the personal-touch of a robot — the personal touch of an independent bookstore staff could appeal to many, and there is room for such competition even among behemoths like Amazon and B&N). Or so I hope.

    I think trying to slow down a tsunami gets a person (or business model) flattened like a pancake. And about as realistic as putting lipstick on a pig, to flip a well-coined phrase.

    • Kelly,

      I don't disagree that attempts to slow down ebook uptake won't be terribly
      successful.

      But if you're looking for a really impossible task, you've found it. Making
      the ebook world commercially viable for independents is simply not doable.
      First of all, you have big humongous players willing to lose small fortunes
      building market share. And you're compounding the problem with this vision
      of personalized service from the indie, which takes time (i.e. money) to
      execute. There is no way they can make it work. IMNSHO. (the NS are for “not
      so”).

      Mike

      • If I weren't in the midst of startup for my new company, I'd try to prove you wrong. Give me three years, and maybe I can. Of course, my idea would combine niche-market-optimization, on-line presence, and community building, so it may not fit your definition of bookstore when I am finished creating it. If there's a small community bookstore where people could gather, I'd count it a success for an independent model. Even Amazon has a brick and mortar community component — which I notice every time I visit my mother-in-law and drive past the big Amazon warehouse with its name emblazoned large, and its parking lot full of gainfully employed community members.

        Of course, when I think about how many independents could survive this way…I really do hate that bookstores are going to have to become an endangered species. I'm lucky enough to live close to a box store, and two independents. Used to be a box store, a mall store, and five thriving independents.

      • Kelly, one bookstore — however it is reconfigured — would not prove me
        wrong. There will be bookstores damn near forever. There just won't be a
        network of them robust enough for any publisher to make a living depending
        on them. And that means the industry turns upside down.

        Mike

      • I emailed a reply to this. I don't know if it will show up or not, since I'm not registered. However, the basic point was that bookstores, like publishers, need a new paradigm. B&N and Borders are the best suited to implement it, and they are trying.

        B&N has online bookgroups, and promotes in-store groups. But why not one step further? Why not a Wii-B&N bookgroup (or several, as tastes differ) where Miis wander in and out discussing books, browsing quick picks, and — most importantly — buying books either paper or e. Or how about a Farmtown or Pet Sitters type Facebook app where readers put up avatar covers of the books in their library, or have to find treasure hidden in a bookstore? Bookstores need to pick up the young'uns, and they aren't going to do it by simply putting up a Facebook page — they have to get creative.

        Okay. I'm in a highly creative mode right now, so I've posted too much. I will stop. I promise. I promised myself my business plan would be finished this week, no matter what. Even though I'd rather find a way (for someone else) to save/transform bookstores than (on my lonesome) crunch out numbers and create a three year cash flow plan (yuck!).

        Thanks for getting me thinking, Mike. Bottom line is I'm just like you — I don't want to see the bookstores go. I still read mostly on paper, but I will go to e-reading soon enough. The iPad is calling me. But the feeling I get when I step into a bookstore and see and feel all those books surrounding me can never be matched by a search on Amazon.

  • What is the carbon footprint of an e-reader? What is the difference between the level of toxicity produced by a book and an e-reader. It is not just carbon footprint we need to worry about. We have to consider toxic pollution to the environment.

    • You're quite right that ereaders really complicate the carbon footprint
      equation in favor of the printed book. But not all ebook reading is done on
      dedicated readers. If you read on an iPhone (like I do) then you're not
      adding any pollution or toxic waste with each ebook you read.

      Mike

  • Bookstores are being killed because the UK government does little about the exploitative rents charged by landlords. Everything in UK shops is so much more expensive than elsewhere. At this time, it is reported that one third of all high street shops are closed.
    Another burden on independents is Oxfam Bookstores. See http://TwitPWR.com/Dwa/ Many of these shops exist in rent and tax free premises. OXFAM has been criticised for delivering very little to the point of need.
    I personally do not see e-books replacing paper books. Radio and television did not manage to do it. What e-books will likely do is concentrate the market; new authors may eventually not get a look-in. Well, that is something else to discuss.
    The greatest function bookshops provide is browsing and expertise. An e-book is probably not suitable to read for every occasion or for young children. Perhaps they will acquire character and be personal at some stage. However, I feel they are more polluting than paper. Manufacturers will make must have latest versions and the earth's surface will be covered with them, where they will give off dangers chemicals and be like PCB's. We really have to get out of a consumer mentality for humans to survive.

    • Whatever those policies in the UK are that are closing bookstores, they seem
      to be having an effect in the US as well because we're losing them too.

      Paper books will be around for a very long time, I agree. But that's
      different from saying bookstores will. They won't, at least not in numbers
      to support an industry the way they have for the past century.

      I have no local knowledge of UK policies and their affect on commercial
      rents, but we do know that more and more information people used to seek
      from books is being captured now, for free and in granular form, from the
      Internet. That is chipping away at the commercial structure of bookstores
      (and of general publishers), inexorably. There is nothing I can see on the
      horizon that will make it stop.

      Mike

      • I forgot the replies are going to my email. I'm going to have to shut it down. But I will say one thing about what people are willing to pay for at this point — opinion and creativity. So while cookbooks and travel guides may be sacrificed to the cooking websites and GPSs of the world, there is still a strong market for opinion and creativity. And celebrity. We have a cultural bias (for now) that opinion bound in a book that someone paid an advance for and slapped a good price on is more valuable than opinion on a blog. Facts? Culturally, we think they should be as free as the evening news (and yes, that is stretching the use of the word fact) the History Channel and the do-it-yourself shows on HGTV.

        You just gave me a glimpse into the future of authorship when our cultural bias on opinion and creativity shift. Scary. Unless human nature changes, the author will have to bear all the weight of creating his or her own vetting authority, as blog posters do now.

      • Kelly, I think your analysis is correct. The increase in “democracy” will
        generate a decline in “authority” for many things. But new authorities
        (aggregators and filterers) will rise in time.

        Mike

      • The greatest loss when book stores close is a source of unbiased information about the market. We will be more and more thrown into the hands of the marketing industry which will restrict choice and encourage monopoly. In early October 2010 I heard a speech at MIPCOM about the future of children's books. It seems they will all become computer virtual games. Parents will be persuaded to buy under the category of edutainment.

      • I think the juvie “publishing” business is going to slip away from

        publishers pretty quickly. Kids will migrate to apps and enriched content

        much faster than grown-ups used to reading.

        Mike

  • This from someone who hasn't read a printed book in two years. I think you've answered your own question!

  • I think many of the posts here miss the point. Whether the ebook is a better experience or whether people prefer bookstores isn't the point. If there are enough ebook buyers (it doesn't have to be everyone), and if it's a better economic model to create and distribute books electronically, that's how it will go. There will be *no* printed books, except POD, and there will be *no* bookstores, except for collectors and hobbyists. It won't matter if there are even a sizable minority of us. If the margins work out better in the e-direction, it will simply supplant the printed model, the end. That's what happened with CDs vs vinyl, no matter what consumers wanted, and that's what will happen with books. Now, even CD stores are dying.

    What I will miss about bookstores is not just the magic of of the volumes, and not just the browsing (and that's something I will REALLY miss–and won't we also miss the artwork, and won't we be sorry for the artists and book designers displaced by all this, just as we miss album covers…and what about poetry…how will that work on a 6″ screen?), but the fact that I almost always run into someone I haven't seen in a while when I am at a bookstore.

    I don't think this change is entirely demand-driven…we were just discussing last night in #ICMchat the difference between market-driven and sales-driven orgs…the latter invents something and creates a market for it, and the former responds to the needs of the market. I'm not sure ereaders are filling a *need* really, though the market may respond reasonably well to the sales push, just as we all dutifully bought CDs and CD players even though many of us didn't really want them.

    The best hope for bookstores is the fact that ereaders are still not as broadly adopted as people are saying. Really look around you on your next flight. I live in a super-wealthy, high-tech town and rarely see them.

    On the other hand, the bigger problem is whether people read at all.

    • Claudia, I think you articulated the point very well. We need *enough* print
      book readers buying at retail to support bookstores to HAVE bookstores. It's
      a critical mass problem.

      But while your last point about “whether people read at all” is, indeed, a
      big question for society, I think we agree that a diminution in active
      readers is not the bookstores' problem today. They're losing customers for
      many other reasons.

      Mike

      • They're losing business for lots of reasons, agreed. But the pie is smaller for sure.

  • Hey, check this out…just came through my FB feed from my local public library. http://www.libraries.wright.edu/noshelfrequired

    Downloadable audiobooks for Android, for library patrons.

  • funnyfunster

    What’s kind of scary is the inroads that the eBook has made with the disjointed product that it is right now. You have the Kindle, Barnes and Nobles reader, Sony and a plethora of others. Imagine if you had one format that could be read by any reader? How far would the music CD have gone if there were 10 different formats that played on a specific player? Bookstores should thank there lucky stars that a common format is not available or they would be in deeper trouble. I am not going to seriously consider and eBook device until the format is more universal.
    On the other hand I would rather browse Amazon than a bookstore, I do not need the ‘tactical feel’ of the paper or the ‘smell of the ink’ coming from the page. I would much rather browse online and see what 40 other people felt about the book through the reviews posted online.
    “Bookstores are inherently community centers.” That is why the bookstores are going to go away. They are a business! They do not make money by having that loser with the PC sitting at a table doing there homework and nursing a coffee hoping someone will see them. Or the chess club member’s playing chess all evening. It’s about commerce. It’s about retail sales and a community center does not generate them.
    “They enable people to see heavily-illustrated books before they purchase them.” How many bookstores stay in business by selling ‘heavily-illustrated books’?

    • Your lack of sentimentality is refreshingly uncharacteristic among the
      responses.

      But let me turn your last point around. It isn't the bookstores making a
      living selling illustrated books I'm thinking about, it is the authors and
      photographers and designers and publishers making a living creating
      illustrated books and the consumers who enjoy owning illustrated books who
      will suffer if the bookstores are gone. Yes, those sales are ancillary to
      the bookstore. But they're fundamental to other people.

      Mike

  • AMEL

    I worked in a bookstore (small, local independent) for about a year. 90% of our customers were over 50. I mean the people actually handing over cash or a credit card at the register in exchange for a product. We had lots of younger browsers – they rarely bought anything. The traditional independent bookstore model is gasping its last breaths, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Any more than record-store owners could do anything about cassette tapes becoming popular, or the record industry could do anything about the switch to digital music purchased online. I don't believe paper books will ever disappear completely, but the idea that you can run a store that sells new books at their cover price (which was the model the store I worked at used) has got maybe another two years, before the last of those stores closes down. My boss had owned the store for 25 years and she was frantically looking to sell it so she could cash out and retire. The best estimate was that it was worth $350,000-$500k. Not much for a life's work – she worked 80 hours a week for 25 years and didn't have kids because of her dedication to the store. But the writing is on the wall. If e-books are what people want, e-books are what people will buy. It's market forces, which are unpredictable, fickle, inexplicable, and uncontrollable. Resistance is futile.

    • Of course, it isn't just ebooks that create this crunch, but I thank you for
      the dose of reality from the front lines of retail bookselling.

      Mike

  • noneofyourFbusiness

    I read as far as this, where, if I understand you, you refer to yourself as follows,

    …”As individuals, which side you’re on is a matter of personal preference. Although I have mostly read ebooks for more than 10 years and haven’t read a printed book in two years, I am for bookstores lasting as long as possible.” …

    Really, now? And you say you're in “publishing”? Is that publishing printed, bound, paper books?

    Well, sir, the words I have for you probably won't be allowed in your comments thread and they aren't generally considered acceptable in “polite company”.

    If you haven't even read a bound and printed-on-paper book in something like two years, are we to suppose that you also haven't _purchased_ one, either? In that case, your claim to want to have bookstores around “as long as possible” is incredibly naïve, incredibly stupid and rings incredibly false. Instead of posing the question, “Why do you want to kill bookstores faster?”, you ought to be answering it, YFA!!!!!

    Oh, and by the way, bound, paper-printed books are vastly more robust than any conceivable “e-reader” device. What I hope is that you come to hold _all_ of your library on an “e-reader” device before you ever figure out just how and why it's the case that bound, paper-printed books are vastly more robust than any conceivable “e-reader” device.

    In the future, there'll be two kinds of people: those who built and conserved a library of bound printed-paper books and the others, those who have no books.

    Really, when I think of #{^&$µù%§! such as you, words fail me, just as, sooner or later, your little “e-reader” device is gonna fail you.

    • Nah, I'll leave your comment up there. This time. If you said anything like
      that about somebody *else, *I'd take it down.

      I don't understand people who get their jollies being nasty and insulting to
      other people, but I know you're not alone out there.

      Mike

      • noneofyourFbusiness

        “I don't understand people who get their jollies being nasty and insulting to other people, but I know you're not alone out there.”

        It isn't complicated: Gross, gross, mindless inexplicable and self-defeating stupidity infuriates me–just infuriates me.

      • There is therapy for anger management. You might want to investigate it
        before your fury results in something more harmful than verbal nastiness.

        From my perspective, if you had the courage of your hostile convictions, you
        wouldn't hide behind anonymity.

        Thanks for the object lesson, but that's the last post of yours that I won't
        delete.

        Mike

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  • I suspect that bookstores (or possibly “book”stores) will reinvent themselves in ways we cannot predict as of now. The problem with the easy point of entry that e publishing allows is that content will proliferate until it's basically unfilterable. In the future bookstores may provide display so that what's available to download is viewable in a more intuitive format than millions of invisible links. (I don't like to find videos from Netflix. The rows in Blockbuster make much more sense to me.) Or perhaps bookstores will become places to try out books before you buy, sipping a latte as you do, after which you download your selections–and the bookstore produces them for you right there and then. And even these are probably thinking from deep inside the box. But I suspect that there are others who aren't–and the will create the bookstores of this millenium–and the next.

    • Jenny, your example was unfortunate. Blockbuster is disappearing (and
      Netflicks is moving from moving DVDs to moving digital downloads). I really
      appreciate the sentiment. I'd describe it as true romantic optimism. In this
      particular case, I just don't agree with it.

      Mike

      • Well, Mike, you're not the first person to call me an optimist, I will admit. And perhaps these are just rosy-eyed visions. Digital media will change the ways we purchase media–I'm not denying that. But predictions abound–the book has been dying nearly since the first one was printed–and the future usually unfolds not quite as envisioned. Blockbuster, to take even the bad example, has been going out of business for what? Half a decade? More? Yet in my not-so-small town it's still here and even at odd times of day has a few customers in it. I am far more a bibliophile than a film-equivalent, so if one day soon we can just zap a movie to our machine, so be it. But I still think that the challenge of the digital age will be content filtering, and that bookstores have a role to play in that.

      • As for zapping the movie, I just got an iPad and I have the Netflix app.
        There are lots of movies not available for downloading but I've already
        watched a couple. It's pretty amazing, actually.

        It will be a long time before there are no more *books*. And I agree with
        you that bookselling and librarianship skills are are a permanent
        requirement to help people navigate the books, or the content, in the best
        way. Searching on Google is clearly not enough.

        Supporting the space and the inventory for a bookstore as we have always
        understood it has always been a challenge. Even in the best of times for
        independent bookstores, which I'd say was the 1970s and 1980s, it took
        considerable skill to run one well. But the combination of challenges became
        such that over the past ten years it really takes the scale of a chain to
        make the retail bookstore business work (with rare, and extremely honorable,
        exceptions.)

        That's a trend that has persisted for a long time. I think it continues. I
        don't see why it wouldn't.

        Mike

      • Whoops, just caught my typo in the first line of that last response. There
        are lots of movies NOW available for downloading…

        Mike

      • Was it Freudian 😉

        Long live the bookstore. The bookstore is dead.

      • Actually, looking at it again, I was right the first time. Most movies
        aren't yet available that way. You know the old line: I thought I made a
        mistake once, but I was wrong.

        So it may not have been Freudian, but Freud would have had a good time with
        it.

        Mike

      • Right, that makes sense, also made my own not-Freudian not-mistake:

        The bookstore is dead. Long live the bookstore.

      • Indeed you did. And I completely agree, with both parts.

        Mike

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  • Teri

    What about children's books? They NEED to be in print……nobody is talking about the need for childrens books in PRINT. Could a brick and morter store survive selling childrens books?

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  • Geckobooks

    E-books would never dominate the market except for the fact that it is getting easier and easier to download books for free. I do not understand how the book publishers and sellers could be so foolish as to push e-books as most people will choose pirated editions in the long run.

    By the way it is very unlikely that anyone is going to go to a physical bookstore to download e-books when they can easily do it on their own computer – that, most likely,they do not have to pay for.

    • What you say seems logical but I don't think it is supported by the facts. A

      million paid downloads of Stieg Larsson, for example, argue that people are

      perfectly content to pay for ebooks.

      We have covered the topic of free ebooks and what publishers offering them

      could be doing to hurt the marketplace and it probably does hurt, although

      free ebooks also give people a way to try the new medium. But to suggest

      that because there are free ebooks or pirated ebooks that there would be no

      chance for publishers to sell lots of them just isn't the way things are

      happening.

      Mike

      • Geckobooks

        I would love to agree with you, but pirated E-books are just starting to catch on and it is not that easy to find newest fictional titles yet. Just wait until the most popular titles are freely available and everyone knows exactly where to go to download them.

        How many people are going to pay $15 – or even $10 – for something that they can easily download for free in a matter of seconds and when all their friends are bragging about having done so?

        I would like to be optimistic about book stores surviving, but the power of getting something desirable for absolutely free is a strong one even if e-books are less pleasant to use than the real thing.

      • My intuition says the piracy would be worst among the early adopters, who

        are, person for person, more tech-ept and adventurous than the masses that

        follow.

        But whether people order their ebooks from a legitimate source or a pirate,

        bookstores don't benefit. Anything procured online is another nail in the

        coffin of brick-and-mortar.

        Mike

  • Sorry but I have to quibble with this line: 'The book business has always been one with very low financial barriers to entry.' That's not true of publishing, where the publisher has to bear all the costs of producing the pBook OR the eBook before seeing a dime, and it's certainly not true of retailing, where location matters (which means, as Glen Charles pointed out in his comment, expensive real estate in order to see the volume you need to stay in business).

    The demise of the small book retailer has to be traced not to the rise of the eBook revolution, but to the greed of the big chains, who've used their ordering muscle without compunction. You won't give us a 47% discount? Fine, our 150 stores won't carry your titles. Then there was the 'we won't pay for 90 days' bullshit – even though the printer has to be paid within 30 days or you're cut off, which leaves publishers looking for bridge financing for 60 days or begging for a really big line of credit.

    In my experience, the big box stores' selection is counter-balanced by poor staff training. Every time I go into my local big box store I manage to flummox the staff without ever intending to. As an example: Wednesday night I went to my local big box store to buy an eReader. I asked if the coupon I'd recently been emailed would apply to the eReader purchase. None of the staff on the floor knew there was a coupon. Sigh. Another woman wanted to know if the coupon had to be printed out in order to get the happy hour discount. Three staff members later (and no answers), I just went to the cash. Where I had to line up while three staff members had a meeting behind the cash instead of personning the tills. THIS is why bookstores continue to disappear, not because people are buying eBooks.

  • stephandaedelous

    Re all reading online etc: Sure an e-book is good to find( and print !) a reference chapter but no one is going study a textbook exclusively electronically or read novels only on kindles. What about print and typography, they don't actually come through well on any screen. How about all the means to tab, mark underline book marks don't cut it. Our brains don't work that way are we supposed to adapt our brains to computer filing ?

    • Good theory, so far being proven correct with textbooks (where digital has

      taken hold) but being proven wrong about novels, where book reading

      continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

      Mike

  • Eros

    I still like bookstores, whether they specialize in new, discounted or used books. I sure hope they stick around in some form, because eBooks just aren't good enough. I can't lend them, I can't borrow them, I can't sell them, I need a device to read them–ugh. That, and I like to bring my books where I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing an e-reader.

    Also, if you're not into the bar scene, bookstores are a great place to meet people. Whether friends or potential dates or what have you.

    • Paper books will continue to be around long after there aren't too many

      bookstores.

      Mike

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  • Russ

    “There is a magic to being in a building surrounded by 40,000, 60,000, 100,000 different books. Bookstores are inherently community centres.”

    I disagree with this because in book stores I rarely see people talking to each other. People are now talking more over social media than in person. Don't get me wrong I think this is not as good a thing as people gathering together, but it appears to be the new reality.

    E-books are here to stay, there is no going back. But I also think print books are here for a good while yet. I think POD will rise as the new form of print in the future. This is far more eco-freindly than the book stripping that goes on today. I foresee book stores printing books while customers wait, and having kiosks in the store where customers will browse and select e-books to download right in store.

    If brick and motor don't make these investments then at some time they will disappear.

    • I'm personally not a believer in in-store POD. We'll see, but I just think

      it adds too little value (POD books are within 1 or 2 days of any store in

      the country now; all in-store does is cut that time. It doesn't add any

      additional titles or printing quality. And if you have four or eight people

      ahead of you, you aren't going to find it useful to wait…)

      And “community center” doesn't necessarily mean “people talking to each

      other” a lot of the time. At least not to me.

      Mike

      • Agreed. If “in-store POD” were the answer, it would have taken off already.

      • Tim, ebooks took a long time too, so I don't know if that barometer works

        consistently. But it asks a store to do a lot to not add a lot of value over

        what already is delivered by Lightning's next day supply through Ingram.

        Mike

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  • Kerrie simpson

    I much prefer reading a real book to an electronic screen. I feel a direct connection to the words on a real page, in a real book. I continue to feel the words on the electronic page (screen), somehow, are one step removed from me. A disconnect. Disconnect! Kerrie Anne Kerr Simpson

    • There is nothing wrong with being in a minority, but if you’ll certainly be in one before long.

      Mike

      • Jenny Milchman

        I don’t know. I tend to distrust “certainly” when it comes to the
        future/”before long”. A lot of the time when people are sure about
        something that hasn’t yet come to pass…it doesn’t come to pass.