Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Death of the Bookstore? Not Really

There is a letter in the NY Times bemoaning the death of the bookstore. The writer notes: 

I was an independent bookseller in the early 1990s during the rise of the book “superstore,” so the showrooming phenomenon was nothing new to me. When a superstore moved nearby, customers started “shopping” in our store, browsing, seeking advice, then leaving without making a purchase. Suspicious, we started following them on their beeline to Barnes & Noble, where they inevitably bought the book we had recommended at a discount we couldn’t afford to give. Dispirited, we closed our store. Now Barnes & Noble and all brick-and-mortar bookstores face the same circumstance.Your local bookstore can’t survive as a showroom. The Justice Department apparently wants you to have cheap book prices above all else. But isn’t there a bigger picture? We vote at the polls, but also with our wallets. What is the value of the best book you’ve ever read? Can you even put a price on it?

Creative Destruction. It happens all the time. Welcome to the free market. People are still buying books, some are getting them free. I have posted a few draft books on the web and am amazed how they get found and downloaded. My one on Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes has been downloaded tens of thousands of times. Is it worth publishing and monetizing? Not for me. Like Paine who profited naught from his publications I felt that getting ideas out there was important. It worked, as small and isolated as the island of ideas is the system now works.

Back to bookstores. I love old used book stores, they harbor ideas oftentimes forgotten. One can stroll and for a reasonable price get a new light on old thoughts. My Amazon purchases are more targeted for professional purposes. But the old style bookstore may have become a thing of the past if it fails to reinvent itself. The complaints of the letter will fall upon deaf ears, things change, and the writers allusion to more Government control is both uncalled for an ineffective.