Deborah Jackson

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Death of Bookstores

Ebooks may breathe life into starving authors and failing publishers, but they will mean the death of brick and mortar bookstores. I must admit I'm feeling conflicted.

What is clear, with J. K Rowling bowing to the pressure of a paperless society, is that this is the dawn of a new age. It will be sad to see the bookstores go. I've spent many a day browsing and filling my shelves with the latest releases, chatting with bookstore owners and listening to their recommendations for an excellent read. But even I rarely visit the retail outlets anymore.

Everything is done online, from banking to mail to shopping, for the most part.

What will this mean for authors? A chance to reach out to readers without the middle man. An opportunity to make somewhat of a living from the countless hours they spend doing research and agonizing over every sentence they write. Authors generally get 10% royalties for their year-long exertion (or sometimes longer), which means peanuts unless they sell thousands or hundreds of thousands of books. Most authors don't. So in the advent of the ebook, authors can make up to 50% royalties. Definitely sounds like more of a fair split, especially since the job of publishers, distributors and bookstore owners to promote an author's work has mostly fallen on the author's shoulders as well nowadays.

I don't want to see the bookstores go. I think, especially for children, they are a place to indulge in the love of reading, explore all the fabulous new titles and simply hang and enjoy the atmosphere of book-lined shelves. I know many bookstore owners work very hard and have trouble making ends meet as much as the struggling author. They support and promote the less well-known authors in their area, and I would hate to see them suffer. There are others, especially the bookstore chains, who could care less about the author, unless they're a big name from a big publisher who has purchased display space for their titles.

So you see, I'm conflicted. I see an opportunity arising for authors and perhaps some publishers, if they keep up with our advancing technology. But I don't see any hope for the brick and mortar bookstore. It's sad to write an epitaph.

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