Monday, October 16, 2006

Future Unclear

Could this be the future of the bookstores?

Read. Discuss.

(Thanks to POD-dy Mouth for the link.)


Susan Adrian said...


Ack. I've been hearing about this possibility since I started working in bookstores, mumble mumble years ago.

I have to say, first, that it sounds like this guy has some weird problem with bookstores. He sounds bitter and angry about them, which I don't quite understand.

Second, some version of this may indeed go into bookstores and be used. I still don't think it will eclipse traditional publishing, at least for some very long time. Publishers are very wary of change, and many readers are too.

David de Beer said...

what Susan says about publishers is true - even more than readers they fear change. It's the same as Hollywood, as long as you can predict you can control, and change implies what you do not, and therefore cannot, control. Simple economics.

I wouldn't take this seriously to be honest, I mentioned aspects of this in the guest blog I did for you.
No, I do not agree that he has some bitterness towards bookstores (although that's possible), this reads to me like a rant by somebody who likes to rant. Self-importance and all that.

Oh, e-books and the like will grow and I sincerely hope that they do -the writer will benefit, and event the reader. Small presses are under pressure all the time and this is an excellent solution for them, as well as making it easier for the big boys and top agents to scout for hot talent making their way up. But publishing will remain in its current format.

Actually, this was a funny post - the guy has no idea what he's talking about, and some of his claims were ludicrous and incorrect. Lots of claims, no facts and evidence. The Simon & Schuster quote was a surprise, but it may have been taken out of context, or it may be 100% factual, but it really depends on how broad a question they meant to answer. Maybe they were referring to the potential of e-publishing? And he took it to his own extreme.
Michael Moore, anyone?

It will take a while, but I've taken some of his points and will write up a reply. Will mail you if you want, and you can add to your blog. See what others think. I do not claim to be the expert in these matters, so would like people with actual knowledge to comment. There are several points he makes where he's stretching, very flimsy argment, not at all well-prepared or lucidly stated.

I have bever before heard of the concept of the publishers being the victims, so this has been a revelation and I am eternally grateful to mr Brian Appleyard for pointing out that even big wigs with all the money and make-or-break power suffer are victimes by those (in the words of Gollum): nasty little bookshopses!

Few years back, Random House had a higher gross than Microsoft, so I find these statements a rant, with little to no basis in either truth, and certainly no thought behind it.
Imagine a kid who plays Doom asked to write a philosphical treatise...
eh, let me stop, I've been reprimanded only last week for abusing people on forums.
Although, bookshops as a whole have a case for libel here.
Will mail you my full reply to his statement, if you like.

Anonymous said...

Some days it seems like my local big-chain bookstores are more of a pickup joint than a bookstore. They also seem to be a popular hangout for families. I have no idea if all that traffic also generates profits, but they seem to be surviving quite nicely in the age of Amazon and The social aspect appears to be a big draw, similar to coffeeshops where the coffee is mediocre and the scene is hopping.

I am hoping that publishers will begin making some of their more obscure and out-of-print titles available as PODs. There are many books out there that I would love to get my hands on, but I know that the market is small enough so that publishers are reluctant to bring some titles back into print, James Walters' Crochet Workshop and June Hiatt's The Principles of Knitting being two examples. There are rumors of the latter being revised and brought back, which will be nice as used copies go for $200 and up. Additionally, it could be a great way for small press offerings to make it into big chains.

I don't know what it's like nationwide, but around here, it's the smaller locations of the big chains which have closed. I can think of two offhand, both located in large and busy malls - both closed when a competitor opened a full-size location with cushy chairs and coffeeshop in the same mall.

quiche said...

In a way I like the idea of POD, for customers who need a book RIGHT NOW because their class starts tomorrow or they are on their way to a birthday party/graduation/baby shower. But I don't want to be there when the printer breaks down, the system gets overloaded, the wrong title is printed or other technological glitches occur. I believe regular bricks and mortar bookstores will endure because they offer a personal touch--being able to browse the shelves and talk to a flesh and blood human being instead of a little box and cursor.

David de Beer said...

a comment by Mr Appleyard:

Bookshops have so badly failed to grasp this that much of my correspondence seems to consist of anti-bookshop venom. Real readers don't like being seen there any more.

quiche is right - there does appear to be a huge social aspect to go to stores. The human touch, you said, I like that and believe it to be true.

oh, the man does have a point, it's the way he gets there and some of the conclusions he draws I disagree with.

I did write a reply to that, but it turned out near-book length, and I just can't take up all the space here, so posted on my blog instead (yup, me am shameless!)

as a last thought:

Shame on you BS Chick! Boo! Hiss *ptui!* why do you makeses them editorses cry, hmm? stop it, give the publishing houses back their *cue Mel Gibson braynig freedom*.

Am I the only person who thinks a statement like "give publishers back their editorial freedom" is suspect, and dubious?
Anyways, I'm off to tell Lady T somebody dissed her chick-lit books!

Me said...

Thats quite a harsh article/link.

Simon Haynes said...

That's a British article talking about the British publishing scene (at least, all the references and prices were UK-based.)

As I understand it the market over there is incredibly tight, with one major bookchain calling the shots and publishers doing what they're told. The same doesn't apply in the US or Australia, where there are still chains in competition with each other.

But it would be nice to wait next to a machine while it printed and bound a book you hadn't read in thirty years.

Wesley Smith said...

Well, beyond the fact that the author of the article seems to have personal biases against the local bookshops in England, he does make some small points. I think that eventually we will see the large chains keep one copy of thousands of books on site, for someone to peruse, then the customer would go to a kiosk at the front of the store and order their book to be printed.

It's HOW we get to that point that I disagree with the author. His comparison with iPods is incorrect. For all publishers to turn to onsite PODs, we're not looking at iPod. We're looking at Napster. I think what will happen is that tiny, independent publishers--the kind that don't get shelves in the chain stores--and small, independent bookstores will embrace this technology and have their books selling at ridiculously low prices. Then a B&N or a Starbucks or will install a POD machine in one of their locations and discover that some book with a tiny print run is flying through the printer.

All something like this needs is a single breakout indy hit, and the larger publishers will start falling over themselves to embrace it.

I don't think the Brick & Mortar stores will ever go away, but they may be absorbed into something larger. Tower records did something nearly identical twenty years ago: using a catalog of thousands of songs, you could build your own cassette tape in the store. Last week, Tower Records announced they were going out of business, due to pressure of iTunes, online pirating, and stores like Best Buy, Circuit City and even the bookstores.

Honestly, bookselling by hand may become even more important if/when this technology takes off, because all a person may to recommend a book is a back-cover blurb and what the bookseller recommends.

David de Beer said...

bookselling by hand may become even more important if/when this technology takes off, because all a person may to recommend a book is a back-cover blurb and what the bookseller recommends

yup. I agree. I think you have it right, Wesley, I am also not in agreement with how Appleyard reaches his conclusions, and the article reads too much like a vendetta from an author who is disgruntled and looking to allocate blame.

POD has a place - there are books with a too limited audience, and POD will cater perfectly for these, so long as they have a demand that is.
I endorse the growth of e-publishing, and am in favor of small presses and magazines moving into e-markets, adn maybe even POD. They are under huge pressure financially, and remain vital to the health of the book trade (the quality referred to in the article).

In the spec fic genres - DAW and Del Rey have a long history of finding and nurturing future talent before they get picked up by the likes of HarperCollins or Random House.
Makes sense for a top house editor to keep track of reputable smaller presses and see who's making their way up. That's how quality in writing can be improved.

Non-fiction will probably benefit the most from POD. Although, with POD the authors will likely receive smaller (or no) advances and will be wholly dependent on royalties. Not ideal, either.

The way Appleyard presents his argument will see a deluge of books - quantity, with even less assurance of quality.
The distinction between a publishing house and a POD market, is that publishing houses approve their products, a form of "quality control". POD allows anyone at all to publish.

actually, BS chick has the most reasonable argument in favor of bookstores remaining, under her profile she says:

the mysterious blue book (which the customer can't remember the title, author, genre, or where they saw it, but it was blue damn it, and they want to read it).

honest to God, that really happens!

Anonymous said...

It isn't that this guy has a thing against bookstores, he is just against popular fiction which is what most bookstores sell. He mentions Abe Books which has an immense amount of non-traditional stock. An advantage of the POD system is that a buyer can get any book they want regardless of its popularity and the economics of stocking it in a physical store. However, the customers who want to shop for a book and then buy it are at a loss because they have to know what they want before they can print it. People shop for popular fiction, they don't always go into a store knowing what to buy. If you're against popular fiction, there is no need for the bookstore system - just know what you want and then print it. But popular fiction is great! Whether you want chick-lit, mystery, sci-fi, etc. there is nothing wrong with popular books and this guy needs to return to reality where people want to read what they enjoy.

Beautiful Food Gardens said...

People said movie theaters were going away when TV came out. People have been saying libraries are going away for forever. I think bookstores will change to meet the demands of their customers, just like everything else does.

I for one like going to eat lunch and buy a book (or five, hee hee) at the same place. If they could go in the back and print out that book I couldn't find that my daughter has to have for school tomorrow because she forgot to tell me at the last minute, so much the better.