Bookstores and Libraries (Planning for 2019 Part 3)

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From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

If you’re a writer and, more specifically, if you’re an indie writer, there’s a lot of opportunity in the bookstore and library markets. Yes, indeedy, I’m talking brick-and-mortar stuff.

First, a reminder: I’m doing a short series reviewing 2018 with an eye toward 2019. If you have not read the first post in this series, please do so. I will be referring to it throughout the series.  In fact, I’d recommend that you read the entire series in order, simply because I’ll be referring to things in one post that I mentioned in a previous post. Otherwise, I’d be repeating myself ad infinitum.

. . . .

If you only saw my post on Barnes & Noble back in October, you’d think that all bookstores were in deep trouble. Barnes & Noble is in trouble. Despite the happy sunny much-too-upbeat headlines about B&N in December, the trouble remains.

The headlines are great, like this one from which says “Barnes & Noble Plans to Open 15 New Stores in 2019.”Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Thriving businesses expand, right?

But you need to actually read past the headline. Barnes & Noble is actually cutting back retail space, and probably cutting back on expensive leases. They’re going from stores that are at least 17,000 square feet to stores that are 14,000 square feet or less. And they’re moving those smaller stores to “entertainment districts or cultural centers.”

Um, you know, like independent bookstores. Only Barnes & Noble will have a self-serve kiosk and a “book theater” (whatever the hell that is) and “plenty of comfortable community seating areas.”

So, less space for books and less interaction with employees, but also lower rents (most likely) and less money invested in inventory.

In my opinion as a long-time retailer, this is about ten years too late for B&N, and I doubt it will fool their investors.

My analysis from October remains the same. If you’re a writer who wants to be traditionally published so that you have high visibility, you are making a bad choice. With B&N reducing shelf space and putting the final nail in the coffin of what once made their brand unique (having so many books on the shelves that readers could find almost anything), most traditionally published books will not be on the shelves in a brick-and-mortar B&N.

. . . .

The other cloud hovering over the horizon, at least for traditionally published writers, is the possible merger between the two remaining large distributors in the United States. On December 4, Shelf Awareness reported  that the Federal Trade Commission is doing a “preliminary nonpublic investigation” of a merger between Ingram and Baker & Taylor, the two big distributors to see if such a merger would violate antitrust law.

If this merger goes through, the United States would be down to one major book distributor for the entire country. Shelf Awareness opined in its article that the single distributor would have a role that would “be all the more significant because of the closure of most regional book wholesalers over the past quarter century.”

Shelf Awareness also wonders if the changes at Barnes & Noble, and the possible sale of Baker & Taylor by its parent company Follett are related. Shelf Awareness believes that Follett is one of the possible buyers of Barnes & Noble, saying:

Follett may want to sell B&T if it aspires to buy B&N, an approach that would lessen FTC concerns and avoid B&T’s non-B&N retail customers objecting and possibly taking their business elsewhere.

For traditionally published writers, the merger could be a serious problem. If, for example, a writer’s traditional publisher gets into a pissing contest with the merged distributor (Ingram Baker Taylor?) the way that the Big 5 got into a pissing contest with Amazon a few years back (a contest that continues on a small level even today), then many books won’t get into the major print distribution channel, and the very reason the writer went to a traditional publisher disappears.

. . . .

More likely, however, for traditionally published writers in this scenario is that their book is the fourth or fifth on the list published that month by an imprint. Publishers invest a lot of money in the top of the list, but rarely invest in the books farther down. Some of those books don’t even make it into the current distribution system, and might be shut out entirely of a single distributor who might mandate that they only take three books per imprint from a publisher. (These things happen all the time.)

If a writer is going to lose control of her copyright for the life of that copyright by going to a traditional publisher, then the writer needs guarantees that the book will visit all the possible store shelves, and get enough visibility to make such a loss worthwhile. But that kind of guarantee is getting harder and harder, and the physical store shelves have gotten smaller and smaller.

. . . .

The consolidation of the distributors will harm the sales of the blockbusters more than it will harm the smaller titles, further causing problems for the big traditional publishers. And you can already see some cracks in that blockbuster façade. For example, when Simon & Schuster released its year-end letter to stockholders, there was no discussion at all of increased sales of the front list (new) titles. Instead, CEO Carolyn Reidy’s claim that 2018 was S&S’s most successful year appears to be based on the growing audiobook division and a new attention to backlist sales. (And the audiobook division news will be part of the copyright discussions we will have later in this series.)

S&S is developing its own distribution line, which, in turn, will have a benefit for smaller publishers and indie writers. The more the big guns run their own distribution systems, the more they train booksellers to order direct from the publisher, cutting out the middleman.

Which means that small publishers and indie writer/publishers will benefit from the willingness of booksellers to order direct.

. . . .

Retailing is changing. The experience is becoming king. Besides, readers have discovered (remembered?) that it’s fun to go into a bookstore to find a book they didn’t even know existed. It’s easier to browse a brick and mortar store. And it’s not just about buying the book.

According to Washington D.C. economic development planner Ryan Hand (quoted in MarketWatch):

Shopping for a book is an emotional experience. The future of bookstores are small and mixed concept stores. [They will be] social spaces where you develop that emotional connection by books that are curated by literature nerds.

I had just such an emotional experience as I was researching this post. I stumbled upon an article in The Wisconsin State Journal about A Room Of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. Even though I culled my book collection way down on our move, I still have several books I purchased at A Room Of One’s Own decades ago, and I have very fond memories of the store.

. . . .

In many ways, these trends in bookselling mean that each bookstore will have its own unique inventory. A Room Of One’s Own in Madison won’t have the same books on its shelf as Writer’s Block here in Las Vegas. Some small booksellers will be amenable to carrying print titles from local authors; other small booksellers will not. Some, like a rabid anti-Amazon bookseller that I know in Oregon, refuse to take a book from any writer who publishes through Amazon. As one of those writers, I stopped recommending that bookstore.

The bookstores will develop personalities again, so that when readers travel, they’ll want to stop in the local bookstore—not to pick up the latest bestseller, but to see what kinds of offers that they might have missed in their own hometowns.

. . . .

As ebooks disrupted traditional publishing, traditional publishers have not figured out how to deal with libraries. When a traditional publisher sells a hardcover book to a library, that book gets only so many check-outs before it literally disintegrates and the library has to replace the book. Traditional publishers, faced with unlimited downloads of an ebook sold to a library, had no clue how to price the damn things.

And so began a quiet little war between traditional publishers and libraries that hit its zenith last summer when McMillan decided to “embargo” Tor science fiction and fantasy titles from libraries for four months after release.

Or, to put it in clearer terms, McMillan believed (based on no evidence at all) that library users would spend those four months buying the books they couldn’t get at the library. No journalist asked why they chose to make this move with their Tor book line only.

I suspect the reason was twofold: Tor’s sales have never been all that great, so they’re probably on an internal bubble (about to be chopped off if they don’t become profitable by a specific date) and some stupid logic that all businesses seem to have about science fiction and fantasy—that their consumers are cutting edge because those consumers read about the future.

Traditional publishers have long seen libraries as their enemy. This is because traditional publishers are a B2B (business to business) entity not a B2C (business to consumer) entity. In other words, publishers believe they sell their books to bookstores and retail outlets, not to readers. The bookstore is the B2C business, not the publisher.

. . . .

Let’s look at some information, shall we? This is from the U.S. based Institute of Museum and Library Services, for fiscal year 2016 (the last time these statistics were available):

(The IMLS annual Public Library Survey) shows that public libraries continue to evolve to meet changing community needs. More than 171 million registered users, representing over half of the nearly 311 million Americans who lived within a public library service area, visited public libraries over 1.35 billion times in 2016. Public libraries offered half a million more programs in 2016 than in 2015; 113 million people attended 5.2 million programs in 2016. In addition, the number of electronic materials continued to grow, with public libraries offering over 391 million e-books to their patrons in the United States.

The Library Journal reports that 25% of the collection materials in public libraries are ebooks. Potash told LJ that the publishing industry’s B2B problem means that it has no idea how many (paper) books libraries ordered because the orders were fulfilled by paper distributors.

Potash said,

…prior to ebooks, even the publishers never knew which libraries bought their books or how many copies, because [library orders] were being fulfilled by the traditional wholesale distributors…. Authors and agents aren’t appreciating that libraries are spending hundreds of millions of dollars…in print and digital, which is contributing to their earnings.

That shows up in the behavior of traditional publishers. They continue to treat libraries like a problem rather than an important part of the book ecosystem.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

A few weeks ago, PG posted a bit about his interaction with an early book wholesaler many years ago. He suggests that the long period of time it has taken for traditional publishers to decide to cut out these middlepersons and ship direct is Exhibit 2,507,438 in PG’s ongoing indictment of what terrible business managers inhabit the world of traditional publishing.

Publishers’ inability to understand the benefits of the marketing and promotional exposure their books gain through libraries is #2,507,439.

PG is less optimistic about the future of physical books and physical bookstores than Kris is.

PG has a long association with physical books. He was fortunate as a child that his mother took him and his siblings to the closest library on a regular basis and made certain there were always books around the house. PG worked in a large university library during his freshman year in college and became an expert at quickly locating books in the huge stacks where few mortals ever trod. When the PG offspring were young, the family visited a Borders on an almost-weekly basis to acquire more books and frequently stopped in at the local library as well.

When Mrs. PG was first published, PG attended a great many book signings at physical bookstores with her. For a period of about three years, the PG’s lived about 10 minutes away from a classic and well-known bookstore, a frequent stop for major authors traveling on national book promotion tours. Mrs. PG did a number of book signings at the store and the PG family frequently visited that bookstore on shopping trips as well.

Even after aggressive culling of the family book collection, PG still sees eight jammed bookcases, each 6 feet tall, whenever he walks out of his office. There are three other large (and jammed) bookcases elsewhere in Casa PG plus books on every coffee table, nightstand, etc., and a few corners where books are stacked on the floor.

PG has inserted that long history as a prelude for saying he doesn’t want to acquire any more physical books, in part because he knows he won’t read them. He can see several examples of unread physical books from where he sits. He much prefers to read ebooks now. The only time he is likely to touch a physical book these days is when he reads poetry to some of the third generation offspring (who are each extremely adept with an iPad).

On those rare occasions when the PG’s enter a physical bookstore, he’s pretty bored and neither of them have purchased a physical book other than as a gift for several years. PG feels no emotional thrill while wandering around looking at the books.

Perhaps PG is an outlier, but he doesn’t think so. He has not been inside a busy bookstore for several years now.

Even assuming that PG’s generation includes many who feel the excitement Kris describes when she discusses some of the attractive and unique bookstores she mentions in the OP, what about the younger generations?

PG submits that music stores were not all that different than bookstores a few years ago, with people of varying ages going in to feel the ambiance, listen to the latest releases and discuss artists and songs with other music aficionados. On Friday and Saturday nights, it wasn’t unusual for a local band to play at some of those stores. Buying a record or a CD in a music store was undoubtedly an emotional experience for many.

What happened to those music stores?

iTunes happened.

Today, only a small fraction of music enthusiasts buy or care about music on physical media. Everybody downloads music from iTunes or other online music retailers. How would you play anything but downloaded music on your smartphone?

PG is informed audiophiles believe that the quality of downloaded music is not as good as music written to CD’s or vinyl, but how many music lovers are interested?

PG would love to hear a reason why digital music and digital books are inherently unlike each other and why physical books will have a unique ability to survive as a mass medium when music in physically recorded form has not.

39 thoughts on “Bookstores and Libraries (Planning for 2019 Part 3)”

  1. I would point out a few things.

    1. If you read her blog regularly, you’ll know that she really likes to go to B&M bookstores and shop for and buy paper books, and that she still owns a bookstore in Oregon. That colors her perceptions and opinions. “Doing better than last year” is a pretty low bar for many indie booksellers to clear. I suspect that if B&N does expire, small bookstores will continue to do “better than last year” for awhile longer, as they will be all that remains in that market segment.

    2. “So if you upload your books to Kobo and put them live on Overdrive as well, you’ll find your work in 40,000 libraries and schools in 70 countries.”

    Not exactly. Every individual library selects the particular books they want to offer from the total inventory that Overdrive makes available to them. If you put your book on Overdrive it’s just as possible that you won’t find your work in *any* library. This makes me suspect that Kris doesn’t understand Overdrive from a personal perspective.

    • Things might have changed recently, but last I heard, most libraries refused to order any books that weren’t featured in Library Journals. Not just Indies, but also small press.

      Some libraries accept suggestions from their “customers” but not all.

      Being available to libraries is a good thing but it is totally separate from actually being featured in their collections. In that it is no different from expanded distribution through Ingram or Amazon POD and B&M bookstores.

      The fundamental fact is that in a given year there are anywhere from half a million to over a million new titles published in the US. (Bowker and the UN report different numbers, neither is particularly believable.)

      No bookstore or library can feature even a fraction of new releases.

      • As an example, if I search for Kristin Kathryn Rusch in the San Jose library offerings, I get 0 results. The Los Angeles library has 54 offerings. If you are an indie author you still have some work to do to get on a library shelf.

        Which actually doesn’t bother me. Indies I buy. Trad Pubs I check out of the library. Works for me.

  2. “PG would love to hear a reason why digital music and digital books are inherently unlike each other and why physical books will have a unique ability to survive as a mass medium when music in physically recorded form has not.”

    There *are* differences, mostly in usage patterns:
    – Music is purchased with the intent of repeated listening, especially early in the ownership cycle. (Otherwise, one would settle for streaming the song(s).

    – Once past the initial ownership window’s intently focus, further playbacks are often used as a background to other activities, be it puttering around the house, exercising, or reading.

    – And finally, music listening can be a social experience. More than one person can listen at the same time. Parties, concerts, etc. This last constitutes a major portion of the music industry’s economics.

    – Books in contrast are most typically consumed as one-and-done’s. Some people do reread but not everybody, which is where the flood of used books that end up at two-fer bookstores and online penny book sales come from.

    – Even upon rereads, book consumption requires near total focus. Reading doesn’t lend itself to multitasking. Nor is it typically a shared activity. It happens, especially with children’s books but not too commonly with adult books.

    The economics of both industries are currently very different, too. Plus, the music industry doesn’t have “studio snobs” arguing that indie music isn’t real music or as worthy as the music controlled by money-grubbing multinationals.

    If anything, it is the Indie sector that has the snob appeal. 😉

    • Oh, yeah:
      Pbooks are more commonly found used (the flood I mentioned) than music so more people are used to buying used book than used music albums.

      Plus, you don’t need the auditory system of a canine to enjoy the full content of a book. 😉

      Advantage: books in any form.

    • Good points all, Felix, but in terms of addressing a mass market, you need a much larger group of purchasers to support a physical distribution, sales and storage system than a digital equivalent of the same.

      I have my doubts that the traditional green eyeshade types have nearly as much control in book publishing as they do in other industries (and since all major US publishers are subsidiaries of European and (in one case) American media companies), perhaps the fundamental economic benefits of selling digital goods won’t have successful corporate champions with sufficient clout to seriously press the financial case for giving up printed books, but I think it’s got to happen eventually.

      (Note: I understand that the preceding comment is quite a run-on sentence, but I am a lawyer.)

      • All true.
        The distribution issue is what KKR is focusing on because since the demise of the regional book distributors distribution has been constrained to a handful of major channels. Borders fell and that closed off one. B&N is tottering and might go. Amazon keeps growing. Ingram merging with B&T will reduce the channels by one.
        We could be down to two by next year.

        Bottlenecks ahoy.

        Music had its own consumer problems that digital sales addressed: the lack of a viable singles product before digital. There was massive pent-up demand that digital singles address so the market exploded. A lesser problem was the decline of radio as a marketing/discovery tool that streaming addressed but in doing so, streaming is becoming a problem because in bringing in the super deep music catalogs to subscribers their focus is getting diluted. And with it, the payments to the studios and artists. When artists complain of low payments they think they are being stiffed but the reality is they are competing with the deep backlist of fifty, sixty years of accumulated music. For them, the problem isn’t lack of distribution but rather market dilution.

        And as KKR pointed out last week, dilution is already ongoing on the digital side of the book business and it will only grow worse.

        The reduction in print book capacity is both a result of and an enabler of digital book adoption.

        But that is for new product.
        Used books are a different story. They have their own adhoc distribution system unaffected by the plight of the new book system. It’ll be around for a long long time, sucking reads and money out of the new book markets. It’s not going away but rather it is growing. As new pbook prices increase the used book market will only grow.

        Don’t underestimate the persistence of the used book marketplace: it will take generations to “clear out” all the product floating around.

  3. “If you’re a writer and, more specifically, if you’re an indie writer, there’s a lot of opportunity in the bookstore and library markets. Yes, indeedy, I’m talking brick-and-mortar stuff.”

    For well-known names perhaps, but I have a feeling it’ll cost those of us not-so-well-known more than we can make off of trying it.

    A true MYMV and good luck – whichever path you take.

  4. My teenager and all her friends read paper books. At school they use chrome books. They all have cell phones and computers. They’re online, but when they read – it’s only paper. This is true of most teens I’ve met at sales events. Of course I’m selling paper books to them. I sold one ebook card to one teen last year and about fifty paper books to teens. I’m not sure how this plays out with middle-grade books, but the teens I’ve met definitely prefer paper.

    • My 13-year-old reads paper almost exclusively. This is mostly (she says) because she is not allowed to bring electronic devices to school, except phones which are tightly controlled. (as in, you can’t actually use them while you are there.) She’s expected to read both school-assigned books and books that she has chosen. All paper. Her friends are in the same boat. Of course, the school has a library, we have a HPB, and I’ll buy her anything she wants from AbeBooks. She has a $50 Kindle 7, but it might as well have NetFlix embossed on the back.

      My younger son reads paper because his mother discourages screen exposure in the evenings. You can argue with that, but that’s where it stands. SHE, on the other hand, reads on a tablet, often until late, and thinks nothing of it.

      • Do your kids swap/lend books with friends?
        We used to do that when I was in high school and college.

    • As another data point, my school-age grandchildren all receive iPads at school and use them to receive class assignments and submit their work for review/grading.

      (These are public schools that include a large number of minority students. Fortunately, they are very good public schools.)

      The pre-school grandchildren are nearly as adept with iPads as their older siblings are.

      That said, children like interesting objects and physical books fall into that category, so they look at them as well.

      • For work other than reading both my kids use Chromebooks and Google accounts, both at school and at home. Reading is the exception.

      • Additional Point – iPads allow children for whom English is not regularly spoken at home to read at least some school materials in another language.

    • Some of my students have said that electronic text = work. Printed material = fun reading.

      Full disclosure – I run a low-tech classroom, and all but the science classes use only print textbooks. The science classes use both print and e-books.

  5. PG: we really need more information to evaluate your bookcase collection before we can be impressed. How wide are the shelves, how many shelves per case? More importantly, are the paperbacks two deep on the shelves?

    I suspect that you may be an outlier when it comes to books, given the number of paper books still being sold, even to the young. For several years we’ve only bought e-books for fiction but a lot of our friends still buy paper. It’s a bit embarrassing actually as they keep lending books to my wife and we’ve got nothing recent to offer in return.

    However, the majority of the non fiction I buy is still in hardback: the e-book still gives an inferior reading experience (for the rather specialised kind of non fiction I buy). I’ve noticed quite a few of those commenting here expressing a similar view.

    This, of course, has nothing to do with visiting bookshops, something I very rarely do these days. The books I buy are not likely to be in anything other than a specialised or a very large bookshop so I buy from Amazon (or sometimes directly from the publisher). Whats more, discovery is much better on Amazon than the random chances of finding something in a B&M store: the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” list at the bottom of the page often lists 50+ titles I’d like to own.

    As for music, I am an outlier as I still buy CDs. I’m not an audiophile but I do like to be able to choose the file format and sampling rate for the versions I put on my devices.

    • I agree about some non-fiction books, Mike. Military history, which I like, often includes detailed maps, for which most ereaders and tablets provide a decidedly inferior experience.

      I understand you were responding with your tongue in your cheek, but I was not trying to impress anyone with the number of physical books still hanging around Casa PG.

      All of the six-foot bookshelves originated a long time ago with a client who owned a marginally-profitable furniture manufacturing business. The client was having difficulty paying my legal fees and proposed to pay them off with furniture.

      After counseling with Mrs. PG, I agreed to take my fees in bookshelves at his wholesale prices.

      The client happened to have two bookshelves with glass doors sitting around his warehouse, so he had a couple of guys with a truck bring me two bookshelves with glass doors and eight bookshelves without doors. I sent him a copy of his latest bill with a paid-in-full stamp on it and we were even.

      The bookshelves look nice if you examine them from more than six feet away. Closer and you will see why the client had regular disputes about product quality with some of his furniture store customers.

      Each bookshelf is 71 inches tall and 33 inches wide (exterior dimensions). Each has five shelves with a taller shelf at the bottom for larger books.

      We (roughly) organized by topic and author the last time we paid much attention to organization. The contents are about 20% hardcover, 70% trade paperback and the rest in taller books, usually for children, and mass-market paperbacks.

      Perhaps 20% of the paperbacks are shelved two-deep.

      If someone from the local library offered to send a truck and a couple of people who are more burly than your typical librarian to facilitate a donation of our books, I think about half of our books would go, including an older edition of “Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published.”

      After the truck left, I would look at the bookcases wondering why we didn’t donate more.

      • More than a decade ago I supplemented my dozens of ad hoc wooden bookcases. I hit up a library for shelving (they had just remodeled) and got a shipment of 100 metal bookcases (5 deep shelves, 3′ wide, head-height). In my current log cabin I can only stash 28 of them (but storage is vast in a nearby city).

        The problem really is that I’m no longer young enough to want to face the sort out each time we move, and we keep consolidating in more books rather then getting rid of a bunch. I’m either gonna have to grasp that nettle, or leave it all to my nonexistent heirs.

        • If you have your executor post details at your local library or on here, I suspect that there will be a minimum of books to deal with by the time the horde of locusts are done.

          • Not true, alas.

            Libraries have limited capacity. Most of the ones I know have an adjunct store where they sell donated books they don’t want (and that’s most of the books they receive). Even those places have limited capacity.

            I spoke to the library of the nearest small city about the feasibility of accepting several hundred book boxes, much less helping with the pickup and delivery, and the (polite) laughter was long and loud. 🙁

            • There’s a reason penny book businesses are a thing. There’s a tidal wave of used books people can’t keep but won’t just trash. Stuff charities get often gets sold by the truckload.
              “Thrift stores like Goodwill receive many more donations than they can physically accommodate. Employees rifle through donations, pick out the stuff that is most likely to sell and send the rest to a landfill. The same thing happens at public libraries; they can take only as many donations as their space and storage will allow, so eventually they have to dispose of books, too. (For libraries, the process is a little more complicated; they can’t legally sell books, so they essentially launder them through groups with names like Friends of the Library, which sell the discards and donate the proceeds to the library.)

              Operations like Thriftbooks step in and buy these landfill-bound books, sight unseen, for around 10 cents a pound.”


              • Forgive me; I should have clarified that your executor should hold a book sale at your house and post the details at the local library.

      • Definitely tongue very much in cheek.

        I suspect that your bookshelves still look a lot better than those that surround me as I write. About 40 years ago we’d just moved house and I covered the walls of the 4th bedroom with self built bookshelves despite lacking the skills, tools and money for decent materials. Still they did – and do – work.

        What really defeated me was having the SF/fantasy wall full of double stacked paperbacks with the space above the books itself full of books on their sides and the piles of later purchases on the floor. Every year or two one needed to move everything to the right to integrate all the books into their proper place. The time and effort involved was so great that the result was a major cull and a total switch to e-books. The Kindle came just in time to save me.

        • Remember collegiate cinder-block-and-plank bookcases?

          A long time ago, the SFF paperback collection at the time was stashed double deep on its side from the top shelf to a very high ceiling, a distance of about four feet, in double book-shelf length. In other words, a solid block about 12 feet long, 4 feet high, and 2 paperbacks deep.

          We would sit on the couch and survey it in admiration, speaking occasionally of casting the whole block in lucite.

          Then a heavy enough truck rumbled by one night, and in the morning we had a perfect example of the collapsed wave over half the room, with paperbacks as uniform particles. Alphabetical order was, for the most part, conserved, but somehow restacking them just didn’t have the same zest the second time around.

          • Remember collegiate cinder-block-and-plank bookcases?

            Remember? I just built one in the garage. I was stashing Xmas stuff, saw the blocks, saw the wood, saw the potential, saw the saw, and sawed the wood.

  6. In my opinion as a long-time retailer, this is about ten years too late for B&N, and I doubt it will fool their investors.

    Fool investors? Half the company is owned by five funds and Riggio owns appx another 20%. These guys are not fooled. They are calling the shots.

  7. I have access to two county libraries who offer ebooks through Overdrive. Both accept recommendations. I’m quite happy with their selection of ebooks. If they purchase a book I’ve recommended, I’m automatically put on the hold list. Most of the books I’ve recommended eventually get purchased. I’ve also noticed that they now even have ebooks on pre-order.

    I’ve also been told that the number of library patrons using the downloadable part of the library is increasing. Since I’m unwilling to pay $14.99 for an ebook, I get a large share of my ebooks from the library. I’m not reading less, but I’m spending a lot less since agency pricing.

  8. My observation is that the “paper-only” thing for younger kids is as much school-driven as it is about the kids’ opinions. If you’re a teacher and you’ve got in-class reading time, it’s much easier to see they’re doing it if they’ve got a book in front of them. A tablet? They could be doing anything. :,

    Then, by the time they get home, they want to use their screentime for games and facetime and videos, not reading. Once Parental Control shuts them down, then they shrug and go for the book. IF Parental Control shuts them down. If not, my experience is they’ll binge on youtube and games until they collapse.

    When I take kids to the bookstore, they don’t head for the books. They head for the toys and then the cafe. They are not excited when I offer to buy them a book. So I am skeptical of people who declare that kids love paper. I think there’s a lot of cultural stuff swimming around there, in terms of them trying to meet their parents’ and their teachers’ expectations of their behavior. ‘Oh, mom and Ms. English Teacher want me to read six books, and they get upset when I’m not. I’ll be sure to pack one they can see.’

    (I don’t see any lending/borrowing going on much either. When they lend stuff to one another, it’s in games, not off bookshelves.)

    • Well, that last part is definitely based on the kid. The best bribe I can offer my girls to get them to clean their room is a trip to Books-a-Million with the promise of letting the choose a few books. But, my oldest daughter reads about 15 books a month, and the younger one likes to buy superhero kids books.

  9. Print is hanging on, and studies do show that younger readers and young adults still prefer print. I don’t totally understand why, but I do have a theory, based on the admittedly small sample size of my own children.

    Children and teens don’t have credit cards. They can’t buy their own ebooks. ebooks are not a gift you can wrap. Schools don’t allow students to use their cell phones or ereaders in class, or have them out in the school library, or while reading between classes. My daughter is not allowed to bring an ereader to school, and she’s not allowed to take her phone out of her locker. Do to the obvious implications of technology in the class rom that isn’t locked down and controlled by the school’s IT department, this isn’t going to change much soon.

    Eventually, schools will switch from laptops to tablets, but a student still won’t have access to their own personal library on those devices. And they still will likely be unable to bring their own devices into the classroom. This is where my daughter does 50% of her fiction reading.

    She wants a book she’s allowed to read after she finishes a test or quiz. She has been very resistant to ebooks because of this. Its a pain point for her that paper books solve. She is also very, very quick to tell me how bad it is on my eyes. Whether this is true or not, its being ingrained in her by the school. I imagine this is the same in public schools all over the country.

    Lastly, she is exposed to books she wants to read through Scholastic fairs and the school library. It ingrains PAPER in her mind as desirable. She wants to hold the product in her hand. My younger daughter is the same way.

    So, I don’t see paper going away for fiction and narrative work any time in the next generation. They are being raised and trained to prefer paper.

    • Print is hanging on, and studies do show that younger readers and young adults still prefer print. I don’t totally understand why

      I prefer print for anything that is not simple narrative. Why? It has more utility. eReading software is primitive. It does a great job for fiction and narrative, but that’s the simplest application. Charts, tables, maps, and diagrams are butchered by eReaders

      I even bought paper copies of Game of Thrones so I could follow the maps. I read on the Kindle, and looked at the maps on paper.

    • And yet…ereaders got their start among people who were even more exclusively readers of paper books than current generations.

  10. I belong to the same library system as DaveMitc above. I looked into donating my books to my local library as a local author. They have a form that must be filled out and a committee that would review my donation. Thanks, but no thanks…
    Like others have mentioned I use my library for famous authors and buy indie books.

  11. Some, like a rabid anti-Amazon bookseller that I know in Oregon, refuse to take a book from any writer who publishes through Amazon. As one of those writers, I stopped recommending that bookstore.

    I thought the vast majority of small bookstores act exactly like this, don’t they? As in, see Createspace, do not buy. They might special order something, but that’s as far as they’ll go. At which point you might as well buy it from Amazon directly.

    They sold the bookstore to a partnership formed between two current employees and fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss.

    Just a side point, folks: people don’t invest in industries that have no future.

    I really doubt Rothfuss is looking to make money on this, he tweets about his love of bookstores fairly often. The article KKR linked to about the purchase talked about gross sales but said nothing about profitability. In fact, before Rothfuss stepped in they hadn’t found a buyer and were looking to convert it to a co-op.

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