Dennis Johnson, writing at Mellville House Books:
. . . .
For a couple of years I’ve been predicting in column after column that B&N was going to get out of the brick-and-mortar business of selling books, but seeing it finally kick into high gear was no fun. If you include the company’s college stores, this is going to mean 1362 bookstores disappearing from the American landscape — less than two years after 686 Borders stores disappeared.
. . . .
…And my brother and sister indie fanatics shouldn’t get too righteous about it either. Two thousand fewer places for people to be exposed to books is pretty obviously not good for our culture.
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not good for business, either. Two thousand bookstores vanishing would represent roughly half the total bookstores in the country. Even though many indie bookstores are thriving right now, thanks in large part to the disappearance of some cutthroat competition, how much longer can they thrive if books are simply becoming so vastly invisible?
I’d just like to say here that if Indies are doing well and online sales are healthy (both true), books are probably not in danger of becoming invisible. Your mileage may vary, as does Mr. Johnson’s.
. . . .
As a Publishers Weekly story reported, [B&N] store sales declined nearly 11%, while NOOK sales tumbled 12.6%. There are no doubt a lot of reasons for this. Mike Shatzkin has a couple of interesting observations about the quality of B&N’s bookselling efforts, for example. And I’d say the Department of Justice abetted B&N’s demise with itssupport of Amazon‘s effort to lower prices: Nook sales were great when agency pricing was in place, with B&N taking as much as 30% of the digital market away from Amazon.
Now we get to the real meat of the problem: The DoJ has conspired with Amazon to lower book prices and destroy B&N. Apparently that old chestnut just never gets old. Agency pricing (never the target of the suit) was saving B&N. Oh, and the sky is falling. Duck.
Publishers are on a crash course learning how to survive without any volume booksellers, and in an environment with one retailer (oh, guess) representing as much of its business as — well, who knows? Eighty percent? More? That alone is likely to make publishers give up on printing books — there’s no sense in printing books if your main outlet isn’t going to order any until they sell them — and join the digital “revolution.”
In short, B&N’s scorched earth policy of the 1990s has ultimately left us with, well, scorched earth. If the book is going to survive it, it’s going to take some real revolutionary activity, indeed.
Link to the rest at Melville House Books blog
Posted by Bridget McKenna