Amazon has done its level best in recent years to ensure that the middle man in publishing doesn’t get a look in. A decade or so ago, book lovers were venting spleen over the demise of the independent bookstores. Now, it may well be the fate of the established High St bookstores that is at stake.
E-books are surging in popularity. As this important phenomenon continues, it will only serve to have a detrimental effect upon the High St chains that are left..Waterstones in the UK or Barnes & Noble in the US.
Perhaps the only way forward is to take the competition on at its own game. And this is what Barnes & Noble are doing with the introduction of their own tablet, the Nook.
Without High St book chains, the publishers’ marketing proposition crumbles. The idea that publishers can spot, mold and publicize new talent, then get someone to buy books at prices that actually makes economic sense, suddenly seems out of reach. They stand as gatekeepers to quality if you like, as there is the subconscious acceptance in most of us that because it has made it on to the shelf in Waterstones, then it must be good. The internet allows us all to be self-published with no-one stopping to see if our work is of any real value.
What publishers count on from bookstores is the browsing effect. Surveys indicate that only a third of the people who step into a book shop and walk out with a book actually arrived with the specific desire to buy one.
But the problem is not so much now. People are warming to e-books, iPads and the like, but for the next but one generation of book lovers, they may have never read a book in paperback form! A scary thought!