I came to two realizations about books today:
1. We aren’t being brave enough.
2. It’s time to sell my book collection.
Two film directors (Kevin Smith and the guy behind Donny Darko) talked on a podcast about cross-promotion with their movies and how five years from now there will be no bookstores. Though they are both authors as well, their main focus is film so they could be dispassionate about our sick industry. Contrary to what you may have heard, that’s a reason to take their assessment of bookstore extinction more seriously, not less. People inside the publishing industry often have their judgment clouded.
When confronted with such dim prospects for bookstores, many inside the book industry answer:
1. Nonsense! Horrors! Unthinkable!
2. It won’t happen that fast. We still have lots of time to bleed the old paradigm dry.
But five bookstores a day are closing across the United States. E-book sales are growing faster than most publishers anticipated. It won’t be long before even your Grammy is buying her books in an electronic format. At first she’ll hold back on buying in, but when the variety of large print books diminishes—they always were a marginal asset—those electronic readers that allow her to easily bump up the text size will push her over the edge. The rise in e-book reading tells me we’re already past the time when digital book consumption is only about the early adopters. That goes double once Christmas morning hits.
Sure, there will still be specialty bookstores, or rather, premium collectibles bookstores. You’ll come for the books, but it’s the coffee they sell which will make the serious money.
I write this without glee. I love bookstores. They are my last retreat. Where else besides my office, will I go willingly? Bookstores and libraries are to me what graveyards and remote girls’ schools with lax curfews are to vampires.
I hope many bookstores find a way to survive. A bunch of them may do it, but those will be digital books on the shelves, mocked up to look like tree books. Yes, grandfather, there will still be tree books, but you’ll pay substantially more for them. Big print runs keep the unit price low by producing large volumes. Those print runs are about to be cut (further) so that paper book you’re so attached to will be a specialty item. (Have you noticed the rise in the prices of buggy whips lately? It’s crazy.)
Then I listened to another podcast. Blowhard’s Malcolm Ingram was speaking with a porn actor/director. Ingram observed that the skills are transferable to mainstream film. (Insert your own joke here.) But he was talking about technical skills. Then he mentioned that it’s never been easier to make a film. It’s true. The cameras come fancier and cheaper than ever. YouTube is a young filmmaker’s playground (search Nigahiga and you’ll see what I mean.) Technology has democratized filmmaking. “I’ve directed two documentaries,” Ingram said, “and I’m borderline retarded.”
That, ladies and germs, is indie spirit.It’s brave. It’s what we’re lacking.
What’s true for film is also true for publishing. Becoming an independent publisher has never been easier and the technology to make a book and market it is only getting better. People have done it. A bunch of industry experts with their own agendas are holding with opinions which were once valid. They get less valid each day (and another five more bookstores go extinct.) They have their reasons to mistrust self-publishing, but if they’re still confusing self-publishing with vanity publishing…frankly, now those people are boring me.
We’ve already hit the iceberg so stop wringing your hands about whether we’ll make it to New York harbor. Honestly, your obstinacy is titanic.
Oh. That other dire conclusion? Paper books are on the way out. I have thousands of them.
It’s time for me to sell them while someone’s still interested in buying them.
- The last country house party? Ebooks and publishing’s phony war, by Peter Ginna (teleread.com)
- Publisher Releases Landmark Children’s Book About Saying Thanks and Giving Back; A Tribute to Tuskegee Airmen and Military Families (prweb.com)
- eBookIt.com Announced Today Their Grand Opening (prweb.com)
- Alfred Introduces the World’s First Enhanced Music E-Books with Alfred’s Kid’s Guitar Course, Now Available in Apple’s iBookstore (prweb.com)
- Is the Google eBookstore any different? (cnn.com)
- Bookstores next chapter hard to read (theglobeandmail.com)
- Hard times for bookstores (search.japantimes.co.jp)
- Best Bookstores: Huffington Post Readers Pick Their 12 Favorites (PHOTOS) (huffingtonpost.com)
- What impact might bookstores and sites selling ebooks have? (ireaderreview.com)
- The Fundamentals of Operating a Successful Used Bookstore (bookshopblog.com)
- A war of words (boston.com)
- Favorite Bookstores (finebooksmagazine.com)
- Why I Don’t Shop at Bookstores Any More – Barnes and Noble Needs to Learn a Few Things From Amazon (drdianehamilton.wordpress.com)
- Self-Publishing: First Espresso Book Machine In Continental Europe (huffingtonpost.com)