Posts Tagged ‘book stores’

The Loss of Book Culture

June 14, 2014

I was showering this morning when I started thinking about a coupon I’d just gotten from Barnes and Noble in my email for 15%  off a purchase, and how I probably wouldn’t get to one of their stores regardless. I used to live in Borders. I loved Borders. Their stores made sense to me, and I would make sure I went at least one a week just to browse. That doesn’t happen any more. Part of it is the lack of proximity. I now have to drive at least a half hour on the expressway to get to either a Barnes and Noble or a Books-a-Million, the latter of which is really more of a reincarnation of Media Play than a bookstore. Now, a half hour isn’t a ton of time. It’s not so far out of my way that it would preclude me from doing something I really wanted to do.

Which is part of the problem now. Going to a book store isn’t something I really want to do. And it hasn’t been since Borders shut their doors. This isn’t a knock on the remaining book stores. All of them have their positives, and can be very nice places. I just have no interest in going.

So I wonder how many more out there are like me. Former book people, maybe even current book people (the library now stands in for my book browsing fix), who just do not feel the same pull to go into a bookstore and just browse. With the collapse of Borders, among others, how many of us were turned into the cold and ended up finding other fires to warm ourselves by? I miss Borders. A lot.  The world of books hasn’t been the same since, no, not even with little indie bookstores that all us feel bad for not supporting better.

And then there is the elephant in the room, Amazon, which has been in the news lately for trying to badger Hachette into a poor deal for the publisher. If we’re going to think about book culture, going to the stores, wandering around, flipping through pages, Amazon is the antithesis of this. Yeah, you can sometimes browse a few digital pages, but you don’t have the other people wandering the aisles, you don’t have the clerks willing to offer advice and suggestions, you don’t have the communal coffee shop-ish area, you don’t have any real interaction. You have point. You have click.  You have no community that exists in any real tangible sense.

Maybe society is changing away from the sort of experience I have noticed myself dropping away from. This could be just a single story in a larger movement.  I miss my Borders, though.

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Barnes and Noble Holiday Sales

January 15, 2014

Barnes and Noble’s holiday sales were a mixed bag. The sales at their actual stores were pretty similar to last year (fell .2%), but nook devices fell through the floor. This isn’t surprising since they’ve quit putting out new Nooks. Given the choice between an old Nook or a new whatever, it’s not surprising that people took the whatevers. I thought the meat of the article was the last paragraph, where Huseby (CEO of B&N) made a comment that digital content was the “lifeblood of digital business” and that the company was busy making progress in linking their content through other devices – in other words, apps.  the first quote is obvious, your print content isn’t going to be the lifeblood of digital business, but it seems important that he didn’t say it was the lifeblood of Barnes and Noble. It also seems as if B&N is committing to the push away from the hardware side and pushing harder into the software end. they realized that they don’t need a device of their own, if people with ipads, surfaces, notes, etc. can and do click on their apps to buy their books through their store.

Also, I have to think it’s a helluva lot cheaper to make a really good app and then plough extra money into the company. Also, as I’ve linked to before on here, digital sales of stagnated a bit. They roared up for a few years, eating up a chunk of book purchases, but it hasn’t continued its rapid ascent this year. Is this temporary or is there just that much of a desire for printed copy that we’ll see this hold for several years? I don’t know, but it means B&N can probably do very well if they work on maximizing their profits at their brick and mortar stores, while laying a better infrastructure for a strong digital presence in the future. I think B&N has this distinct advantage over Amazon. There have been countless articles about people wandering through bookstores, browsing at the books, only to leave and buy it cheaper from Amazon once they’ve read a few pages and know they like it. there is no reason this couldn’t work to B&N’s advantage. Make it easy to walk through a store, find a book you like, then purchase the digital edition. People could do it now through their phones or whatever without leaving the store.  Find a way to encourage this and make it easier.

So, the sales numbers were a bit of a mixed bag, depending on how you look at them. While the Nook devices took a beating, in a world where I can go and grab a $50 tablet from Meijer, I think getting out of the hardware side where profit margins are shrinking and competition is growing is a good idea. Put your limited funds to better use elsewhere.

Book Links

September 25, 2013

Bookstores…of the future!  Okay, maybe not of the future, but definitely a bit of a shift from what we’re accustomed to outside of a Barnes & Noble (or a Borders *sigh*).  Add a cafe, or a bar, or a children’s play area (maybe a Happy Meal, too, eh?).  A coffee shop I used to hangout at with friends in undergrad was attached to a Christian bookstore, and cafes have long been a staple of the national book chains. It’s also an idea the wife and I have kicked around in our more whimsical moments. “Hey, let’s open a bookstore!” “And then file for bankruptcy!” We even had a grandiose dream at one time of having a restaurant/bookstore/coffeebar. Yeah. I applaud anyone taking the leap of opening a bookstore and attempting to incorporate such things into their plans. I hope it works, and I would try to support your endeavor. That said, I think it’s a long haul through two feet of financial woe. Still, sell a good spice cake and I’m there.

Sticking to the UK, there is a massive piece in The Guardian centered on Stephen King. I’m an unabashed King fan. I have had a more difficult time getting into his newer stuff, which may in part be from my own reading interests shifting over the years, but King is the guy who got me back into reading when I was in middle school and came across Eyes of the Dragon on the school library bookshelves. to be honest, I’m still slogging through this interview, chipping away at it throughout the day when I have the opportunity.

And the BBC caught up with Bill Bryson who wants his cake…and digital books, too! He’s lobbying for publishers to package a digital copy with a normal printed copy, so when people buy an actual book, the digital book is packaged with it in some way. I get what he’s saying, and I’m not against it.  We’ve seen movies package a “digital copy” with their DVDs, and music CDs are so easy to rip that a digital copy isn’t necessary (especially since it seems most music is bought digitally – maybe they should start packaging CDs with each download?). Something I’d be curious about is a digital subscription to my favorite publishers. For ten bucks a month, let me “join” Penguin and be able to read a selection of their library.  Sort of like a Netflix for books.  They could limit what was available, though if it is too limited no one would have any interest, and control the distribution/downloading. Also, they would have an opportunity for a treasure trove of information about their readers likes, dislikes, and habits.  it would almost be enough to get me to buy an ereader.

 

Book Links 9-11-12

September 11, 2012

Book selling seems to be a rough sport down under. Dymocks, an Australian book seller, is pulling entirely out of New Zealand. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury is selling his international press, Murdoch Books, to the larger publisher Allen and Unwin. This consolidation of publishers is something we should maybe start getting used to. On a related note…

Harper Collins has reached new agreements to sell its ebooks. And Amazon immediately slashes prices on two best sellers to $10.  Contrary to popular belief, converting to a digital format doesn’t appear to erase the majority of the costs for publishing companies. It’s not surprising that this misconception exists, I was under it at one time, too. However, from all that I’ve read about it the actual creation of the physical book, the paper and cardboard and ink, makes up all of 20% of the price of the books we buy. The rest of those costs? Well, some go to the writer (hopefully). Some go to the publisher as profit (again, hopefully). A lot goes to people like editors, designers, marketers, etc. Actual people who work damn hard to make a book good and interesting. And, yes, covers matter. The physical design of a book matters. I still STILL covet my hardcover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because of the awesome Chris Ware designed cover. Murakami’s recent 1Q84 has an equally incredible cover by Chip Kidd. I scoop up Criterion Collection movies from used stores partly because the movies are great but also because they put a lot of effort in making awesome inserts to go with the movie.   Okay, rant over. There’s just a good reason that ebooks shouldn’t head straight to Clearance Bin level prices – especially if ebooks become the primary mode of distribution. People deserve to be paid for their work.

Speaking of Chris Ware, he has a new object coming out. Building Stories. I haven’t seen it yet, obviously, but I’m a big fan and this thing is just neat looking. I’m still trying to decide if I have the money to throw down on it. I’m thinking of getting it and, if I do,  a review will go up here fast.  I just heart Chris Ware.

Finally, the short list for the Booker prize has been announced.

Book Links 7/20/2012

July 20, 2012

I get these things over twitter, I read them, I sometimes re-tweet them, but then they are gone forever. After yesterdays book links post, I’m putting another up today and am considering making it a regular thing. If nothing else, it’ll save the links for me later.

Joss Whedon has ten tips for writing. This isn’t exactly new, it’s dated 2009, but it just came across my twitter feed today. I’m usually lukewarm towards his stuff, but what I like I really like.
It’s more from a screenplay bent, but I think the majority of it can be applicable to writing in general.

Also getting into the writing tips act is Tana French.

I am a Paul Auster fan, and here is a brief clip of him reading from his upcoming memoir.  It’s roughly three and a half minutes, and has me hooked. Maybe it’s because I know I’m getting older (half of Auster’s age, apparently) and so his reflections have a particular significance to me. I don’t know. But I think this is something I’m going to be in line to read when it comes out.

Lists are always fun conversational fodder. Amazon has released their 2012 list for most literate cities. My city didn’t make the list, but maybe we’re just too poor to buy from Amazon. Our libraries are well visited, though.

Zola wants to become the place to be for independent book sellers, replacing Google’s ebook service and eventually take on Amazon. It’s ballsy and ambitious, I like it.

Finally, The Atlantic has a nice write up about the protection of bookstores and how they may be more durable against the onslaught of Amazon than we feared (as well as making some suggestions for how we could work to protect these places).

Alright, that’s what I got for the day.