My boss sent me this article to read today and I was utterly absorbed. It's a bit lengthy, but if you are like me, and fascinated by the world of books -- writing, publishing, producing, retailing -- and if you are like me and have always had a bit of angst against Amazon, you might find it interesting. If not, perhaps you'd like to just read my quotes and thoughts on the article:
First, read this about independent bookstores: "According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent booksellers has declined from 3,250 to 1,400 since 1999; independents now represent just ten per cent of store sales. Chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders account for about thirty per cent of the market, and superstores like Target and Wal-Mart, along with clubs like Costco, account for forty-five per cent, though they typically carry far fewer titles. As a result, publishers, like the Hollywood studios, are under enormous pressure to create more hits—more books like “Twilight”—and fewer quiet domestic novels or worthy books about poverty or trade policy."
OH! That is tragic!!! I remember when I worked at Blue Kangaroo Books, where we hosted popular book clubs for free to the children in our community. I had one mother thank me for leading the club and tell me that her daughter just LOVED that series of books. . . she bought them for her all the time at WALMART, where they were cheaper. Aghast, I checked on the price at WalMart, and discovered that this mother was saving about 30 cents per book, yet chose to buy them there over an independent store that offered this great service to her family! BKB had very little competition in town -- there was no "Fox Books" across the street, like in "You've Got Mail". But there was big old WalMart up the road, carrying a few of the most popular books, and apparently, stealing our business out from under our noses! What I love about independent stores, or Christian bookstores like the one where I currently work, is that the selection is greater, and we might choose to stock it just because we LIKE it!
Here's another good quote about independent stores from "the senior vice-president and publisher of HarperCollins, says. “Independent bookstores are like a community center. We walk in and know the people who work there and like to hear their reading recommendations.”
Mmmm. . . yep, I'm a sentimentalist, as are most people who love bookstores. I loved that community aspect about working in an Independent store, and during my time on the sales floor at LifeWay, I tasted a bit of that, too. I remember a few days last December when I just had several amazing customer encounters and said "Some days I just LOVE my job!" Sometimes you just get a customer who would rather ask a person with a warm, audible voice, what book you should buy for your daughter, instead of just reading the reviews on Amazon.
Do you see the truth in this: " 'I think consumers, like publishers, are living in parallel universes,' Burnham says. 'Consumers are educated to have a multiplicity of choices. They still like to go to a bookstore, while they also want everything available online.' "? I know I sure do!
One interesting trend I used to notice was how people would come to a bookstore to look for a specific title. If we were out of stock, they would say "Oh, that's ok, I'll buy it online." But why? If your store (and most do) offers a free special order service, why not go ahead and order it from them? You already came in! You'd have to wait anyway, to get it from the online store, and most likely pay for shipping (Amazon prime doesn't count, because you DO pay for that at the outset!)
I'll spare you the rest of the quotes, but pose these questions to you: why do YOU read books (meaning, the kind with paper and a spine)? Why read them this way instead of electronically? I'll get on a bit of a soapbox and suggest to you that if you choose to read real paper books, why not buy locally? I used to suggest this all the time to the students here at the Seminary. I know you want to save money, and clearly, that is a legitimate reason. But if a local bookstore tries to compete, or tries to offer you a specific service, why not go ahead and buy it from them (and in this case, support your fellow Seminary students employed at that store)?