Monday, 21 February 2011

The Death of the Book Store...Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it’s just the first round....

What we are currently experiencing is adjustment to a revolution, albeit one in a velvet glove. eBooks won't be the demise of the high street book store nor will they replace paper books.  The publishing industry has had problems long before the current rise in eBook popularity and a lot of those problems have been enforced on book shops by the publishing industry who have in turn bounced back some pretty unsustainable business practices. 

I love eBooks and I love paper books, (As long as they come from a sustainable source, are not mass produce in print runs that don't support demand and return to be pulped or used as even more landfill) to say that one will replace the other is not credible.  What we are however seeing is jostling for position.  We may well see one format become the 'Alpha male' as it were, and this may well be the upstart eBook. Publishing needs to look at itself and how it operates.  The demise of the high street book store could just as easily be attributed to publisher greed in selling product at ridiculous prices to supermarkets.  I am all for the democracy of both business and reading, but when consumers expect paper books to be only £1 what message does that send out. If you couple this with the blanket bombing of stores with product from the leading five or six publishers in the country you can quickly see that the whole structure of both publishing and high street retailing is based upon a fragile and vain turnover system which was started in the 19th century.

It is odd that publishing house eager for cheap sales in supermarkets is happy to do this at the expense of the stores which have been the foundation of their growth. We are left in the UK with one dedicated chain of bookstores, Waterstones, and they are trying to turn around some poor trading figures. Publishers have bitched about the high rate of returns they have seen from Waterstones but did they support those myriad of titles, did they create a demand for them or were they sent to their fate on a tide of apathy. Much of publishing has grown complacent and now it is struggling to come to terms with the new order. I believe given enough time Waterstones will get their house in order and return healthy trading figures, whether publishers let them is another thing.

No comments: