I am not lost…

February 1, 2016

Age of the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore

I’ve made it fairly clear in the past (I believe) that I stand firmly on the fence in regards to paper books (or dead tree books, as my family is wont to call them) versus e-books. I love my Nook and my Kindle, but I also still will go out of my way to buy paper versions of books that mean a lot to me. I don’t expect that my opinions on these will change any time soon, but I’ve heard a lot of unfortunate issues arising with brick-and-mortar bookstores–and this article sounds like all of them. But in reading this, there was something that caught my attention that I didn’t much care for.

If you’d like, go ahead and read the article before continuing on.

For the most part, I agree with the article. The ebook industry is affecting sales of paper books, this much is true. Amazon coming out with their brick-and-mortar bookstore is likely going to affect sales even more–because then residents are still essentially buying from Amazon, just from a “real” store. But here’s where my argument lies, in this one sentence.

Perhaps a wider selection of titles is not as necessary in the modern era when esoteric titles can readily be obtained via the Internet.

Yes, this is true; you can find pretty much any random book title for sale somewhere on the internet. That doesn’t mean, however, that these “esoteric” titles are easy to find. As what would be considered an “up-and-coming” author, I need as much help as I can get with promotion of my books. I’ve talked before about picking up books because of their cover and/or what’s been said on the back of the book. I’ve found some amazing stuff just by wandering around a Barnes and Noble looking for stuff–authors I’d likely have never found otherwise.

So for an author who’s just starting out, who’s just gotten their first book out there, the elimination of the brick-and-mortar store seems like a deletion of one of our few methods of publicity.

Granted, I know that this is a relatively small amount. I know that the vast majority of publicity has started coming from the Internet regardless. The effort has come down to the author and social media, even with whatever help traditional publishing houses may or may not be able to help with. In addition to this, I know of several authors (Maggie Stiefvater comes to mind in particular) who have specific connections back to local small bookstores, like Stiefvater’s relationship with Fountain Bookstore in Richmond. To be fair, Stiefvater may not be my best example since she’s already a well-known name in her genre, but I’m still not sure she’d the type of book you’d find on the bookshelves at Target. (If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me. I’d be happy to be wrong in that regard!)

I’ve already run into this problem to some extent in the B&N stores near me: despite all the publicity in the world from the author, I could/can not find any of Chuck Wendig’s books in the stores. Particularly if I want a book in paper form specifically, I’d rather be able to stop by a store and buy it there and not have to pay for shipping, than order it online and potentially pay out the ear on shipping. (Yes, there are ways you can ship to store sometimes. I’m aware. But still–I couldn’t find AFTERMATH in the B&N store. The Star Wars book. When the movie had just come out. On the list of things that make literally zero sense to me…)

I’m not sure what the solution is. I’m sure there is a balance to be made somehow between the two industries without turning each and every independent bookstore into the fiction section of Costco, but also allowing places like Amazon and what have you to have their stores. (To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why Amazon needs a brick-and-mortar store in the first place, but that’s just my opinion.)

I’m curious. What do you all think about this? What’s your opinion on the article, or Amazon’s store, or the status of the e-book versus DTB battle? Do you think bookstores should focus on only the bestsellers and leave the more “esoteric” books to fend for themselves in the Internet-sphere? What do you think is the best way for authors to publicize their books? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,
R

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