Did technology kill the book or give it new life?

23 March 2017

From the BBC:

Digital technology has certainly had a profound effect on the traditional book publishing and retailing industries, but has it also given the book a new lease of life?

At one point it looked as if the rise of e-books at knock-down prices and e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook posed an existential threat to book publishers and sellers.

“Literature found itself at war with the internet,” as Jim Hinks, digital editor of Comma Press, succinctly puts it.

But contrary to expectations, the printed book is still surviving alongside its upstart e-book cousin, and technology is helping publishers and retailers reach new audiences and find new ways to tell stories.

. . . .

In the UK, roughly £1.7bn was spent on print books last year, compared with £393m on e-books, says Nielsen Book Research’s Scott Morton. The digital newcomers’ share of the market seems to have settled at about 30%.

On the high street, Waterstones saw physical book sales grow 5% over the Christmas period compared with the year before, while Foyles saw sales rise 8.1%.

The era of the printed book, it would seem, is far from over. But a lot depends on the sector you’re looking at.

Adult fiction – particularly romantic and erotic – has migrated strongly to the e-book, whereas cookery and religious books still do well in print, as do books with illustrations. All for fairly obvious reasons.

. . . .

London-based tech start-up Bookindy is using technology to encourage people back to struggling local bookshops.

It does this with a Chrome browser plug-in – each time you search Amazon for a book, a window pops up saying how much it would cost at your nearest independent bookseller.

Founder William Cookson, who describes himself as “just an average sort of book reader”, says his creation took just three days to code.

It helped that he could tap in to an existing network of 350 independent British bookshops called Hive, which enables retailers to check stock and fulfil orders.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Bruce for the tip.

Stump the Bookseller

18 March 2017

From Loganberry Books:

Stump the Bookseller is a service offered by Loganberry Books to reconnect people to the books they love but can’t quite remember. In brief . . . people can post their memories here, and the hivemind goes to work. After all, the collective mind of bibliophiles, readers, parents and librarians around the world is much better than just a few of us thinking. Together with these wonderful Stumper Magicians, we have a nearly 50% success rate in finding these long lost but treasured books. The more concrete the book description, the better the success rate, of course.  It is a labor of love to keep it going, and there is a modest fee.  Please see the How To page to find price information and details on how to submit your Book Stumper and payment.

Link to the rest at Stump the Bookseller

Blackwell’s 2016 financial results reflect ‘challenging’ year

17 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

Blackwell’s losses deepened in its last financial year, with the move of one of its flagship campus shops in Manchester to a temporary venue a contributing factor. However, investment in its stores and an increase in e-textbook sales have lead to a 10% growth more recently, the company said.

In the year to 25th June 2016, Blackwell’s recorded a loss of £2.9m on a total turnover of £43.3m on its continuing business, down from £2.2m on sales of £45.8m in the 52 weeks to 27th June 2015 (excluding the closure of its library services US contracts in the prior year).

. . . .

The company has also invested in its e-commerce site, distribution capabilities and grown its London-based Blackwell Learning team. With digital resources being used more widely in UK Higher Education, the company has struck a number of partnerships with universities for students to use it e-textbook platform, and sales are up 249% year on year, it said.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

What value do we put on reading?

17 March 2017

From the Bellevue Reporter:

I would like to bring up the idea that bookstores such as Barnes and Noble should receive some form of subsidy to help them stay in business. As a Western Washington University student, and a Bellevue resident, I was saddened to return home and stop by Crossroads only to find out the Barnes and Noble went out of business with little to no notice. Books were an integral part of my life as a childhood and I would hate to see bookstores and libraries become the new Blockbuster.

Link to the rest at the Bellevue Reporter and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG wonders if they have iPads at Western Washington University. Ebooks (except for textbooks) are also very friendly to a student budget. Unfortunately, textbooks in any form have a long tradition of being hostile to student budgets.

This Bookstore’s Clickbait Headlines on Facebook Are Actually the Plots of Classic Novels

17 March 2017

From AdWeek:

Does the end ever justify a means like clickbait?

That’s debatable. But a new contender in the discussion is Dallas bookstore The Wild Detectives, which is using what it wryly calls “Litbait” … to trick people into reading classic, copyright-free novels.

. . . .

Facebook posts featured witty teases like “British guy dies after selfie gone wrong” (The Picture of Dorian Grey), “Teenage girl tricked boyfriend into killing himself” (Romeo and Juliet), “When it’s OKAY to slut shame single mothers” (The Scarlet Letter) and—wait for it!—”This Italian politician makes Trump look like a saint” (The Prince by Machiavelli … which got as passionate a response as you can expect).

. . . .

“You fell for the bait, now fall for the book,” the video concludes, which pretty much sums up the goal of the campaign—to remind people that there are way better things to read than clickbaity articles on the internet.

Link to the rest at AdWeek and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Amazon Bricks & Mortar

16 March 2017

Thanks to Alexis for the tip.

High street sees 4% rise in book sales

13 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

The British high street saw a 4% rise in book volume purchases through physical stores last year, while online sales flatlined. However, online retailers continued to grow their market share of the print market with a 1% rise to 32% of volume purchases in 2016.

These were the findings of Nielsen’s Books & Consumer annual survey.

. . . .

In terms of volume, online purchases remained the same as last year due to the flatlining in e-book buying, whereas the high street saw a rise of 4%. Both online and store purchases were up in terms of value, with sales through online channels up 5% to £1169m and sales through stores up 7% to £1130m in 2016.

Bohme’s findings also confirmed that purchases of e-books are in decline, with consumers buying 4% fewer in 2016 – a trend which coincides with a slowing in the growth of device ownership and the increasing of e-book prices. In addition, multi-function devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, overtook dedicated e-reading devices as the most commonly used for e-reading, with a 48%-44% split respectively.

. . . .

Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair, added: “Much has been said in recent years about e-reading cannibalising the sales of print books, so it is very interesting to see how this trend has reversed and how print is now very much back on the up.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Bookstore Paper Nautilus Being Forced Out of Providence’s Wayland Square

11 March 2017

From GoLocalProv:

The bookstore Paper Nautilus in Wayland Square [in Providence, Rhode Island] has been informed that their lease will not be renewed — and a petition has been started to try and save the business that has been on the East Side for over 20 years.

“I found out last week that I’ve got 45 days, until the end of my current lease,” said owner Kristin Sollenberger, of hearing from landlord Kenneth Dulgarian. “So I called Ken and asked what was up, could I pay more rent, what was going on. He said he had a non-disclosure signed, so I don’t know if he sold the building or is renting it to a higher bidder.”

. . . .

Sollenberger said that the bookstore had roughly 30,000 books, and that while most were used, that the store orders non-used copies from authors popular with customers, such as H.P. Lovecraft.

“Our customer base has remained fairly steady over the years,” said Sollenberger. “People want to support local business, which has benefited me — and the realization that something like this is rarer and rare, it needs to be supported.”

. . . .

Dulgarian spoke with GoLocal about the situation on Monday.

“She’s been a delightful tenant. Her lease is expiring mid-April,  I think she’s been there 20 years,” said Dulgarian. “I just have another use for the building. Look, I know that industry, I was in that industry — the book business. I owned College Hill Bookstore for forty years.”

“Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Macy’s, everything is going Internet,” said Dulgarian. “I always kept the rent modest – I subsidized it because I have an affinity for it, but it’s unsustainable, and I’ve got a better use for that facility.”

. . . .

“It’s difficult being an independent retail seller — I had to close down in 2004. But when you see the giants closing, they see the shift too. It’s sad.”

Link to the rest at GoLocalProv

Riggio Reiterates B&N’s Commitment to Restoring Growth

9 March 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

As one of the featured speakers at the Association of American Publishers annual meeting held March 8 in New York, Barnes & Noble CEO Len Riggio delivered something of a bookselling history lesson, as well as his vision for the future of the country’s biggest bricks and mortar book retailer.

In conversation with Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle, who conducted the Q&A, Riggio was clearly someone the audience wants to succeed.

. . . .

Speaking only six days after the release of disappointing third quarter results (in which he said he has yet to find a “magic bullet” to stop B&N’s sales slide), Riggio repeated that turning around negative comparable store sales into positive comps at the company is key to its future. Riggio said he thought B&N was on its way to achieving positive comps, but the distraction caused by the presidential election and its aftermath ended the upward momentum.

B&N remains comitted to being a multichannel retailer, Riggio continued, offering customers books through its physical stores and e-commerce website. He said the back end of, which had had a string of problems, is now “secure,” and the company has a great team of new people who have on track.

Riggio acknowledged that B&N’s expansion into manufacturing digital devices was a mistake, saying, “we’re not a technology company.” And the Nook unit, which at one point had as many as 1,600 employees, he said is now, after dramatic cuts, at about the right size, selling devices manufactured by third parties, but that carry the Nook name. Riggio said that while Nook is significantly smaller, he still wants B&N to be able to sell customers an e-book if that is what they want. On the topic of online sales versus in-store sales, Riggio noted that B&N does “a huge amount of business” from customers who order books online and then pick them up in a store.

. . . .

The final piece of advice Riggio offered to publishers was to inject new life into the steadily declining mass market paperback business. He said at one point mass market paperbacks outsold hardcovers by a seven-to-one ratio. Riggio said with their low price points, mass market paperbacks are an entry format for many customers.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Felix for the tip.

To PG, it doesn’t sound like Riggio has a lot of new ideas. Doing the same thing over and over isn’t a good recipe for reversing a multi-year decline.

PG suggests mass market paperbacks won’t save Barnes & Noble. They certainly won’t pay the rent for traditionally-published authors.

And if customers are going to order books online, why would they not order at Amazon instead of Barnes & Noble?

Well, you don’t have the experience of standing in the checkout line soaking up the bookish ambiance when you order at Amazon.

Perhaps you could engage your UPS driver in a conversation about books, but that wouldn’t be quite the same as interacting with a BN clerk who is living below the poverty line. The UPS driver makes enough money to actually buy books.

You do understand that Barnes & Noble is built upon thousands and thousands of minimum-wage serfs with zero job security, don’t you? And that most are hired part-time so they don’t get any fringe benefits? And that even the BN store manager is probably not earning as much as a typical Amazon warehouse worker?

But think how many virtue points your friends will give you when you tell them you shopped at a real bookstore.


Daunt slams ‘crushing consistency’ in chain bookselling

6 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt yesterday (2nd March) emphasised the necessity of giving power to individual store managers in bookshop chains, calling the “crushing” consistency exemplified by chain stores like W H Smith “god awful”.

. . . .

Daunt said yesterday it was “absolutely” necessary to devolve power to the individuals running the chain’s shops – the alternative being to crush shops’ independent, entrepreneurial spirit. His assessment follows renewed attention in the wider press over Waterstones’ unbranded shops in Rye, Southwold and Harpenden. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme earlier this week, Daunt defended the opening of the shops saying “part the reason we did it is to convince our own booksellers that they have the autonomy that they do have”.

“If you run a chain – I have 280 shops – how do you bring that individuality into each of those individual places?” he asked Monocle’s audience. “The answer is you absolutely have to devolve power to the individuals in the shops, to the managers, in particular, and to the teams, and get them to curate, to merchandise. You must help to do that in an attractive way. But you must not impose uniformity or you kill that spirit. As indeed with – and because I can be rude about them – W H Smith and that god awful uniformity, that crushing consistency they have; we need to do the exact opposite.”

The event struck an optimistic note as Daunt, fresh from turning around Waterstones, which recently made a profit for the first time in five years, remarked the biggest surprise for Waterstones had been to see growth in children’s books by 25% – stemming mainly from YA. “They are the future readers – and they are apparently also the people on SnapChat and doing all the social media,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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