Clearly not my week!

3 09 2010

It’s clearly not been my greatest week ever, with two missed posts and just a complete lack of any real productive activity. Here I am being very sorry for that.

Fortunately, the week with its ups and downs (more of the latter than the former) is at a close. This weekend sees me and the family driving home to the parents to spend a fun-filled Labor Day weekend with them out in the country. It’s long overdue.

I had good news on the job front, then it got hit with more bad news on the job front. Personally, I’d just like to go ahead and win the lottery now so I can be done worrying about it.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with much more edge of your seat blogging, of course. Meanwhile, I leave you with the final “oh, wow, look at that” news from the world of bookselling, as it came out at the beginning of the week that Barnes and Noble will be shuttering its Upper West Side store in Manhattan. There’s a considerable amount of Schadenfreude going around at that. People are remembering that B&N’s overdone presence resulted in so many independent booksellers being driven out of business. It was a central theme between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, after all. I also saw a few people say that they felt the death of the big chains might bring back independents. Man, if only. I’d love that. I don’t believe it for a second, though and I really want to be drinking what those guys are.

It also makes me wonder if the market ever really knows what’s for the best.That’s just my opinion, of course, but I do believe that the independent, small booksellers bring (brought) an experience to the world of books that if it isn’t completely dead already, it’s lying on the bed,  pushing the morphine crack button on its life support like crazy. It’s all nuts. Borders is going to sell teddy-bears, after all and it don’t get WTF-ier than that, folks.

So, expect the Kindle 3 to be the hottest gadget this Christmas. Hell, I even want one (n.b., we have a Kindle 2 and its nice, but not as nice). Hide and watch, because for anyone else out there paying attention, it’s pretty plain to see that Amazon is winning so much and so often, it’ll take something cataclysmic to stop them now.

Also, this is brilliant:

Every time I see something as awesome as that, I kick myself for not having thought of it. It just keeps getting better and better.

So, on that note, signing off for a few days. Have a nice weekend!

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Depressing Bookstore Doom

17 08 2010

I think the title of this article by Brett Arend says it all: “Get Ready for the Bookstore Massacre”.

There’s not too much new here, but it’s probably the most down to earth expression of the situation surrounding books, physical bookstores and e-books that I’ve seen yet. Barnes and Noble’s stock is languishing despite the recent proxy battles, trading around $15 a share (down from $45 five years ago) and for the price of a cup of coffee a day, you can either save a starving third world kid or piss the money away on a share of Borders.

What makes me feel bad about the whole thing is it really does paint a dismal picture for rummaging around a bookstore and discovery via browsing, like Arend says:

I will be sorry to see the bookstore go. I love browsing for books. You’ll find titles you weren’t expecting or didn’t know existed. I love discovering an out of print gem in a second-hand bookstore.

Even today, if you make the full use of money-off deals and coupons at places like Borders you can often get paper books for less than e-books. And there’s a limit to how much you can carry, so there’s a limit to how much you can buy. I’ll admit I’m getting fed up with technology. I dislike computers. I’ve even taken to reading an old-fashioned newspaper again.

But it’s “progress.” We’ll have to deal with it.

Or equally dismal:

As for the book industry: About 125,000 people still work in book stores and news dealers, according to Labor. How many of them will still have jobs in two years? Another 75,000 work in book publishing. When writers self-publish in electronic format, how many publishers will still be left?

Amazon is going to make out like a bandit, though and Farhad Manjoo even predicts a $99 Kindle coming soon.

My gloom-filled view is that this will happen sooner than we expect and a whole hell of a lot faster. I just don’t see the big chains being able to provide any real reason for people to come into their stores anymore and e-readers are just going to become increasingly mainstream. Most independents are dead or dying. It’ll just be Amazon. It’s a real pity in a way. Where will people gather to be around books? It probably won’t be libraries much longer either. Will it be Goodreads? I mean, they’re already thinking they’ll kill all newspaper book reviews.

Am I just being pessimistic? I realize it sounds like I’m holding up “The End is Nigh” sign and proclaiming the end of the written word. I don’t think it’s all bad. It will lead to a democratization of the publishing world in the sense I think we’ll see far more self-publishing and self-promotion in the future as the publishing houses also start to fall by the wayside. That will be a huge increase in efficiency and a lot of good new voices will be heard. Democratization, however, brings its own set of problems. With so much slush out there (and I mean a lot of it really must be crap also), can you imagine if it were all just suddenly “out there” competing for the attention of a flighty cyber e-book buying audience? I don’t really always trust the public to pick out what’s good and what isn’t. Hell, look at the bestseller lists. It’ll be rough going without some kind of credentialed editorial voice in the production chain somewhere. Goodreads, as much as I’m a fan, probably won’t be it.