Wednesday, March 7, 2012

E-readers and Bookstores

What may possibly be the most noticeable event in the publishing world is the disappearance of bookstores. Many place blame on e-readers causing the closure of Borders and forcing stores to cut back due to a lack of sales. In fact, there seems to be a wide range of support for the existence of bookstores, and you won’t find me bashing them. I do love bookstores, I love the atmosphere, and nothing brings me more happiness than a trip to an indie seller where I can curl up and read.

Some of the more elaborate online comments spotted on different sites pertaining to e-readers and bookstores are such gems as, “The kindle killed my bookstore/Borders” and “people who use e-readers are lazy! Go to a book store!”

First, I would like the address the ‘laziness’ of e-reader owners. As someone maintaining a blog, working two jobs (one that involves a sixty mile commute, round trip), applying for full time jobs, plus an assortment of other things I do – I don’t necessarily have the time (or the gas) to drive an hour to the closest bookstore. But when I visit a bookstore, I browse, I enjoy the displays, and I will check out books I would like to buy and place them on my to read list. Sometimes I’ll buy a book then and there, other times I’ll download it onto my kindle. But really, no one is making profit off of me right now because I have so many books in my house that I’m refusing to purchase new books until I’ve read them.

But does this ‘laziness’ stem from people not visiting bookstores at all because they are busy sitting at home with their automatic downloads? Because if that’s so, why was there no calls of laziness (that I spotted, at least) for all of the years people were ordering printed copies of books from the internet to be delivered at their doorstep? Oh? A copy of the book you wanted wasn’t at your local bookstore? So you had it delivered to that store or to your home? Well, don’t be lazy! Drive to a store where they have copies! Really, the laziness argument in itself is lazy because there is nothing to back it up. It’s just talk.

But is the purchasing of books through digital means (whether for your e-reader or for copies of books to be delivered to your home) destroying bookstores? Borders Group closed its doors less than a year ago bringing out cries from many die hard bookstore/book lovers declaring the evil of e-readers. Borders had not turned a profit since 2006, it had “lost its edge” in the mid-1990’s.

“[Borders] went heavy into CD music sales and DVD, just as the industry was going digital.” Said Peter Wahlstromg when interviewed for the article, "Why Borders Failed While Barnes & Noble Survived".

“He says Barnes & Noble also invested in beefing up its online sales. Eventually, it also developed its own e-reader, the Nook. Borders did not.”

By the time Borders began to offer e-readers it was already scrambling. Holiday sales weren’t what they needed to be. It was trying to do anything it could to keep above water. I was an employee of the store prior to its closing and every month the store changed its rules and demands for the employees. Each month there was something new they were having us push on customers. Whether it was “Books You’ll Love” or being a door greeter. I am not saying e-readers had nothing to do with the closing of Borders but I believe that it didn’t have as great of an influence as e-reader haters believe it did.

In recent months, with so many e-readers and tablets being released onto the market, in addition to smart phones where you can still read your favorite book, the e-book industry is more powerful than ever. “Wahlstrom says Borders is disappearing at a time when, as consumers, readers are more empowered than ever. He says he still reads paper books but also reads on his iPhone, computer or tablet.”

“Lurking behind all of this is, the dominant force in books online and the company that sets teeth on edge in publishing” stated Julie Bosman in her article "The Bookstore’s Last Stand". “But in many locales, Barnes & Noble, is the only retailer offering a wide selection of books.”

This would be my problem, and I have many friends who have similar issues. We love books, we live off of the feeling of purchasing something new to read. But we don’t have bookstores in our areas. I, in fact, haven’t a singular bookshelf in my entire county. If I want to go to a bookstore I have to drive (as I mentioned) a solid hour to get to the closest one. Barnes & Noble is one of them. Once upon a time B&N was looked down upon by different book lovers for being the bully who took out the independent bookstores. When B&N came into power many of these indie stores suffered.

It seems that no matter what, every generation has some new drama to deal with when pertaining to the book publishing world. First it was the emergence of department-styled bookstores. Now it’s the appearance of digital books.

“Mr. Lynch says Barnes & Noble stores will endure. The idea that devices like the Nook, Kindle and Apple iPad will make bookstores obsolete is nonsense, he says. ‘Our stores are not going anywhere,’ he said… He pointed to a surprisingly robust holiday season. In the nine weeks leading up to Christmas, sales were up 4 percent from the previous year. Titles for children and young adults are doing well, partly as a result of the popularity of fiction with paranormal or dystopian themes…’”

Through the negative phases the book world has gone through, times where people have cried out for some justice for their ideas of tradition, there has always been something that has helped out the change in times. Independent bookstores still exist, B&N still exists, e-readers are there. I don’t believe published books will fully disappear. I feel that there are far too many printed book lovers in the world to allow that. What is wonderful is that no one is forcing you, the reader, to choose sides. You do not have to have an e-reader if you do not want to. You do not have to go to a bookstore if you don’t feel like it. Wahlstrom was right, we are in a powerful position right now. We have so many options and can really cater to one another’s needs. We can do what we need to do, what makes us happy. All I ask is that we respect one another’s choices. If you do not like e-readers because you adore that crisp book in your hand, because you like things the traditional way, that’s okay. If you love e-readers because of the easiness of it all or the weightlessness of not having to carry books, that’s great. But what made me want to feed out these four entries filled with rants and rambles and quotes from random articles was the blatant hatred and disgust of what people like. We are all allowed our own opinions, even if they defer from our own, it’s our freedom as a human being: the capability of our own thoughts. So if you have a particular dislike for something (book/e-reader) respect those who do and please, agree to disagree.

Interested in more e-book ranting/loving?

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