Monday, 21 June 2010

Where Are All The Books?

One thing that has struck me in recent months, is how bare the remaining bookstores' shelves are.

I cannot remember a time when I have seen the same titles I saw three months ago, but no new ones! If you look hard in the larger stores, there are a few, but nothing like the regular list of new titles there used to be. I can rarely find anything new to read these days!

As Read Rite Web said in their recent assessment of changes in the publishing industry: the traditional model of stuffing shelves with 'returnable' books, many of which end up getting shredded by the publisher, is clearly unsustainable. Book pricing has gone mad too. Last year, new releases by leading writers were selling on a Buy-two-get-one-free basis - now it's Buy-one-get-one-free! How does an author make a living on those margins?

I love browsing bookstores, which is fine if you don't mind getting a crick in your neck! Internet browsing is more comfortable, but you need to have some idea of what you are looking for and it can be even more time-consuming as clicking through the book blurb, excerpts, customer reviews and 'Buyers-who-bought-this lists'.

Everywhere I go, people are reading from hand held devices, from IPhones, E-Readers and the new I-Pad which lists the books on virtual shelves, like Goodreads and Shelfari. I also read an article recently about schools turning to electronic files for textbooks, which are a major part of their annual budget. Most school age children are used to reading from a screen so this will not be a problem, and they can travel light. So will e-books and POD become the norm sooner than we think?

Readers also don't have to rely on the publishers' PR machine to hear about new or favourite authors. Writers put everything into the public domain on blogs these days. They [we] talk about their booksignings, conferences, upcoming events, their research and storylines - as they happen.

So maybe even a dinosaur like me will have to face it eventually. In the meantime, I still want to walk into Waterstones and see my title up on a shelf - preferably not the 50p bargain bucket by the door either!


N. Gemini Sasson said...

One does wonder what books and book-buying opportunities will be like in the future. All three bookstores in my hometown (two chain and one independent) have closed in the past two years. The only place to physicaly browse and buy a book now is at a large retail store or grocery - which of course provides one with a very limited selection of perennial bestselling authors. More and more I find myself browsing on the internet for new titles and authors or frequenting blogs or discussion lists for suggestions, not necessarily by choice, but out of circumstances.

Deborah Swift said...

Yes, I've just been surprised to discover my book will be available in the US for the Kindle. In one way I was disappointed, I love the look and feel of a real book, and I'd like my readers to experience holding my lovey book cover in their hand. By the same token, I'm actually delighted because it means maybe more young people will read it than in the traditional format. I remember bemoaning the loss of more than one music format,(yes, I'm that old) but have managed to get used to the new technology - just takes a bit of time to drag me into the 21st century!

Bethany said...

Bookstores are disappearing at a tragic level. While I understand the overwhelming convenience of e-books, there is something about a hardcover that is just romantic.

Seeing the classics in ebook form is depressing. I saw a copy of The Hobbit for sale on Kindle the other day. Something about that just seems weird.

Tahlia said...

I love 'real' books, the friendly feel and smell of paper, and the way you can flip back easily if you want to read that really good bit again, but if enough people like ebooks, then ebooks it will be. At least you aren't restricted to what's in your local store.

If you're interested in YA fantasy, you might like to take a look at ch1 of at my new novel, 'Lethal Inheritance’. You’ll find it at

Ginger Simpson said...

I'm cheering for the e-book revolution, but at the same time, like you, I still have a desire to see my book on a shelf in a real store. That's been a dream since the start, but it looks like the prediction that paper books will never go away might just be wrong. I doubt they'll ever disappear completely, but with the popularity of all the e-readers and netbooks, I think people are finally realizing the value of ebooks. I think I like the idea. :)