Wednesday, April 24, 2013

James Patterson Wants Us to Have A Conversation

This past weekend the prolific author James Patterson took out ads on the front page of Publisher's Weekly, The New York Times Book Review and Kirkus.  His advertisement poses the questions, "Who Will Save Our Books? Our Bookstores? Our Libraries?"  His goal here is to start a dialogue that the industry and society as a whole has been largely ignoring.  He argues that the government stepped in to save our banks and automobile industry but where is the government on bookstores, libraries and the importance of reading?  There is article after article about the collapse of the book business, but no one has proposed any suggestions for how to save it.  Patterson doesn't make any suggestions either, he's just trying to "stir the pot" as he says.  He's looking to start the conversation in a constructive manner instead of just ignoring it like we have thus far.

It is also interesting the adversarial relationship that has developed between publishers and librarians over ebooks.  When only physical books were available libraries and publishers worked together cordially.  With the rise of the ebook format publishers have suddenly seen libraries as enemies.  Libraries typically get physical books at a 40-42% discount off the publisher's list prices.  For ebooks they are expected to pay 10 times the retail price and sometimes more.  That's if the publisher decides that their ebooks should be available at all to libraries.  With ebooks for whatever reason, publishers feel that libraries having ebooks will undercut their sales of those books.  The lack of anything physical or tangible associated with these books means that there would be little point in wanting to keep them forever, unless you are the type to reread books.  Why not just borrow them from the library and return them when you are done?  Why bother amassing an ebook library when no one will be able to use it but you?

Which is one issue facing libraries.  The constant cuts to their meager budgets is another.  They can't really afford to pay $100 for an ebook when that would equate to 5 hardcover new releases.

The problem facing bookstores is the same one that has existed for years and years.  Bookstore sales have been falling for years (typically between .5-1% per year) not because people are buying fewer books, but because people are not choosing to buy their books from bookstores.  They are buying online from Amazon, or at Target or Walmart, but not from bookstores.  This may in part be a chicken and egg situation.  Are people choosing alternative ways to acquire books because their local bookstores have gone out of business or have their local bookstores gone out of business because people have chosen to buy their books elsewhere?  In reality it's probably a little of both.

Personally I have experienced nothing but growth since purchasing Broken In Books in 2010.  And we are doing fine, but every store that says they wouldn't rather be doing better is lying.  

Sales of ebooks are also included in these figures, as most bookstores now have the ability to sell them online, so for our purposes they are merely a format of the book, not a replacement for the book.

What do you think?  How do we get consumers to choose the physical bookstore over the myriad of other options available to them?  Should we try?

1 comment:

  1. I think people buy the bookstore as much as the book, and the eReaders remove that component of the process. People "go" to a bookstore; they simply read an eReader.

    Broken in Books has become a bookstore because your efforts and experience turned it into one. So. Thanks.