From the New York Times Opinionator:
Satan in Seattle, as the walking wounded of the book business describe Amazon.com, continues to expand from the shores of Lake Union here, with nearly a dozen new office buildings housing the global nerve center of earth’s largest online retailer.
By contrast, a few miles away is lovely old Town Hall, a sanctuary for the written word. On any given night, hundreds of people show up to hear a novelist tell a story, a poet turn mush into sublime rhyme, an essayist make narrative sense of messy facts. Town Hall is one reason why the Northwest is known as a touring author’s paradise.
We hear that one culture must destroy the other. It’s inevitable: the books-to-the-barricades defenders of ideas printed on dead trees will lose all that they love to the soulless digital monolith on Lake Union, with its 164 million customers.
. . . .
But surprise: the apocalypse already came and went, and look who’s standing. One technology, the e-book, the biggest new invention in reading since Gutenberg cranked out a Bible with movable type, changed the world — most likely for better. We have more books, more readers, a bigger audience for words, on pixels or paper.
The problem, for those who are purely reactive, is that publishing as we know it will soon die. And so will bookstores that are no more nimble or creative than a socks ’n’ things in the mall.
. . . .
There are two big questions about the future of books and technology. One is: are people reading more and, by implication, buying more books? The answer is yes. In their annual report last August, the Association of American Publishers reported that overall revenues, and number of books sold in all formats, were up sizably in three years since 2008. Without e-books, the numbers would have been flat, or declined.
. . . .
Well then, what about the second question: the fate of the independent bookstores, those imperiled isles of words? The headline from a release by the American Booksellers Association during last year’s holiday buying season was telling: “Indies Defy Conventional Wisdom as Sales and Locations Continue to Increase.” The release quoted Oren Teicher, head of the association, as saying, “An array of factors are fueling the resurgence of independent bookstores.” Among those factors are sales of e-books by indies.
. . . .
If Amazon wasn’t inventing the future, somebody else would. And Bezos makes a good point in his annual shareholder letter when he notes that the Amazon Kindle e-book list is full of self-published authors represented by small presses. Many of those writers would never get their shot, defying publishing’s gatekeepers in New York, without the new format.
One author, A.K. Alexander, who wrote the thriller “Daddy’s Home,” says in Bezos’s note that she made more royalties in a month on her Kindle sales than she did in a year with traditional publishing.
Link to the rest at the New York Times Opinionator and thanks to Cheryl for the tip in her comment.
Passive Guy doesn’t know if he’s quite as optimistic about the future of indie bookstores, although he would like to be.