Online shopping, and the advent of e-readers, with their promise of any book, any time, anywhere, and cheaper pricing, have shoppers abandoning Borders and Barnes & Nobles bookstores as they did music stores a decade ago. (via the Wall Street Journal).
For more than five years, the handwriting has been on the wall for booksellers and publishers. But rather than learn from what happened to the record industry, many of the people involved in creating, distributing, and selling books have continued to bury their heads in the sand.
Whether you greet the news with rejoicing or wringing of hands, the truth is unavoidable: the age of the super-sized bookstore (and the printed book … AND publishing, as we know it) is over. Now that I can summon virtually any book directly to my Kindle in less than a minute, it’s much harder to justify fighting traffic, scrambling for a parking space, and hiking through acres of aisles, only to discover that the book I’m after isn’t even there.
In an age when I can carry my entire library on a device the size of a single paperback book, it no longer makes sense to have bookstores large enough to have their own zip codes.
In an age when Amazon.com’s one-click ordering can bring me any printed book in less than 24 hours, “We don’t stock that, but I can order it for you and call you in two weeks!” isn’t a strategy that will keep bookstores afloat.
Printed books will continue to exist, of course. But they will, like vinyl records, be increasingly relegated to small, well-run, boutique shops, where passionate, knowledgeable owners will sell them to obsessive fans willing to pay a premium for non-digital products.
Three years ago, when I first brought my Kindle to The Company, the folks at my lunch table could not contain their horror.
“But I relish the scent of the paper and ink!” one gushed.
“There’s nothing like the weight and heft of a good, solid book in the hand!” exclaimed another.
“Who would ever want to curl up on a rainy day with a piece of hard plastic?” snorted another.
Now, all three of these people not only carry Kindles … they rave about them.
Instead of pining for the good old days, publishers and bookstore owners had better be asking, “What’s next?”