Earlier this month, yet another independent bookseller, The Mystery Bookstore announced its closing. So sad. Located in trendy Westwood, California, a mere block off the UCLA campus, this fabulous stalwart of the printed book has served the mystery reading community for the past 23 years, and has hosted virtually every mystery author, big name or small.
Robert Crais at The Mystery Bookstore (Wow!)
One of the last signings there.
On nearly the same day, the major book chain Barnes and Nobles announced record fourth quarter sales. How can this dichotomy exist?
Well, it seems the source of B&N’s bragging rights came not from book sales in its stores, but from the on-line sales of eBooks for electronic readers. On Christmas day alone, the chain reported that their computers had crashed as a result of being clogged with orders for eBooks for its latest reader, the color Nook. Another statistic said that more than half of all “best seller” sales were eBooks.
In the words of the song artist and poet, Bob Dylan “… the times they are a’changin’.”
For authors, it seems to ring the death knell for printed books. Yet the reality of it is that more books than ever are actually being sold. Just not in the form we’ve come to love.
I’ve come to the eBook revolution kicking and screaming. I love books. Real books. My shelves are crammed with them. My nightstand is stacked with them. I love the look and feel of them. Having spent time in the printing industry, I even love the smell of them—that heady ink-on-paper aroma.(I know you know what I mean.)
I’ve recited all my objections to owning a reader, be it Kindle, Nook, or iPad… “I don’t like reading off a screen.” OR “What happens when the battery goes dead?”
The response from the progressive minded people who already have one or more of these devises, sounds something like: “Yes, but you can’t tuck your book into a purse or pocket. You can have it with you anytime, over lunch, in line at the bank.” AND, “When you go on vacation you can carry dozens… no!… hundreds of books with you. Think about the size of the suitcase you’d need to do that. Huh? Huh? Have you thought about that?”
Okay, I have imagined trying to fit a shipping container full of books into the overhead compartment on an airplane.
The change, though, has left me feeling maybe a bit the way the scribes of old must have felt when Guttenberg first introduced movable type, making their beautifully crafted calligraphy-styled books obsolete.
The truth is, when I listen to the arguments, my objections seem rather lame. Technology has proven itself valuable to the consumer (again). People buy them because they like them. It’s progress.
I envision a day when brick-and-mortar bookstores will mostly be a thing of the past. Possibly a few will exist to service collectors and hippy-holdouts like me—those who still store their music on vinyl record albums, proclaiming… “It sounds better.”
It doesn’t sound better; it just sounds familiar.
For authors promoting their works, perhaps the rest of Dylan's lyrics apply:
“Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown. And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. For the times…”
You know the rest.
I now have plans for a Nook, Kindle, whatever… “Uncle! I give.”
Still, my heart cries, “It’s not a book, unless its printed.”
Where do you stand on the debate? Have you gone to the darkside of eReadership. Or are you clinging stubbornly to tradition?... Join in. Let’s call it our official poll.