THE NEW NORMAL: Less Paper, Indie Book Stores Thriving

Yes, you read the title correctly: eBooks are expanding their market share but Independent Book Stores are doing quite well, thank you very much. This is as I predicted, but I’m not going to be smug about it as, about a year ago, it looked very, very bleak for the one-​​location shops going it alone.

The first article, from North American industry bible Publishers Weekly, provides an incredibly lengthy list of the top sellers in the eBook format for last year. So lengthy I haven’t a clue how many there are mentioned there. Yowza, is it ever long. Still, a scan for the names you recognize will come up with at least one title for each author, often several. Stephen King, a long-​​time advocate and fan of the eBook (and considering the size of Under the Dome, fans ought to keep that in mind before investing that volume of space on their shelves) even makes an appearance with his novel about the Kennedy assassination. The Fifty Shades of Grey series is predictably at the top, proving the anonymity of a eReader is something people take advantage of; and the Game of Thrones series is also scattered through the top of the list. Tom Clancey shows up a few times, as does John Grisholm. So do other authors, but it seemed best to get those out of the way right off the bat.

The point here is that people like to read, and the thing that I started hearing when the Kindle first came out–I’m reading more and more now–seems to be continuing un-​​abated. The more they read, the more they read; tautology aside. 

The second article is something that I hoped would happen: people running their own bookstores are learning to turn lemons into lemonade (sorry about the hoary old phrase) and are turning their businesses struggling to compete with the large chains, into more successful places to get people in in order to enjoy the book as a destination. Celebrate the book, they cry, here we are to act as your enabler! Given the large chains have fewer and fewer locations – and those locations have fewer and fewer employees – the independents aren’t in competition with anyone who provides an actual browseable inventory of titles. The automatically generated suggestions on line where “if you liked Guy Adams’s Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God, then you’ll also enjoy Accountancy for Cornish Tin Mining, 1845 – 70 (Vol.3)” clearly has never worked no matter how many times they change the calculations. In the shop, however, Lucy or Andrew (or whoever), will point you instead at either Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine or  Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin and you’ll be far better off as a result. This is something that the local stores have always done very well, and the modern reader – possibly having grown-​​up in an on-​​line world – knows not the joys of having someone point them at their new obsession of an author. Thus, the indies are playing to their strengths, this time with a whole new generation.

4 thoughts on “THE NEW NORMAL: Less Paper, Indie Book Stores Thriving

Leave a Reply