Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Fate of Bookstores

You want your book to sell well, of course. You have to remember that it's not just up against all the other books published every year, in every country, throughout history. It's also up against all other forms of entertainment; that's movies, Netflix, music, plus everything available for free (hint: all of that plus stuff you can get for free, like blogs and radio).

But the stakes are raised when you realise you're not the only one this affects. There's a whole ecosystem around a novel's publication - publisher, agent, copyeditors, blah, blah, blah. But the part I wanted to highlight today are the bookstores.

I'm worried for bookshops. I know for a fact that I'm naive about a lot of things, and I know bookshop chains are corporations too, but with book piracy and ebooks and the rise of the internet and TV, I am afraid. One of the two big bookshops in my town shut down this year to make way for a cinema. Thankfully it wasn't my favourite (that honour goes to Waterstones), but it still shows you something. I can't see the profit-loss records of Waterstones right now, but I can only hope that since it's in a popular shopping centre it's doing okay.

Because some aren't.

Bookstores are wonderful places, guys. Especially the ones that accommodate their customers by providing chairs and comfortable lighting and design. I once read an entire book in my local Waterstones in two sittings, and they didn't once try to kick me out. I know shops usually don't want customers to get anything without paying, but I'm a loyal customer to this Waterstones and buy lots there whenever I do have money.


Books like Harry Potter and hell, even Fifty Shades of Grey are godsends, because they get people into bookshops and even into reading. Harry Potter did that for a whole generation of readers, and Fifty Shades of Grey got middle-aged housewives out from in front of the TV. I know you don't have a social responsibility with your book, technically, but don't you secretly want to do that?

One business model (well, kinda) that I love is that of second-hand/charity bookshops.They're problematic too, in that they don't pay the author or publisher, but in fairness someone's already paid the author/publisher once to buy the book and then given it into the second-hand shop. Books are cheap in these shops, meaning more people can afford to read them (like me), and the charity shops then give the money to people in need.

I think that's wonderful.

I also wonder if some kind of merging would be possible, but that's a thorny problem for another post.

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