Friday, April 10, 2009
The supposedly non-existent demographic...
I had an interesting experience earlier this week at work. You know how over the first sales quarter of 2009 that sales of e-books have jumped something like 110%? And you know how our trade organization and various booksellers tell us to calm down, that everything's okay, we're not going to be going the way of the independent music store anytime soon? 'Cause it's only the younger generation (which doesn't read much anyway), the folks who go ga-ga over gadgets, who are going to be buying the Kindle? That e-book sales can continue at the rate they're going and still be a relatively low percentage of book sales?
Codswallop. Malarkey. Stuff-and-nonsense.
Folks, I met the supposedly non-existent demographic this week. A woman came into the store to browse our fiction section. By her own admission she is nearly an octogenarian (!), and she was busily taking notes. When I asked her if I could help her, she said (politely) no. That she was looking for new titles to download to her Kindle. She loves independent bookstores--she loves the feel of them, their selection, their staff picks, the way they engage the community. She even said she's been missing her indie bookstores since she bought the Kindle. But she's still coming in to our store to take advantage of our expertise and love of books and careful selection and walking out without a purchase, choosing instead to spend her money with Amazon. She seemed mildly regretful that she was supporting us only in theory, not in practice.
Bookstores, both indie and chain alike, need to be able to compete on this playing field. And we need to be able to do it yesterday, not two years from now. What can possibly happen to us when even 80 year old women who really value what independent bookstores bring to them choose to shop at Amazon? I'm no fan of chain bookstores (nor of any chain stores, really) but I think that in this instance it might be a good idea to work together to make the publishers aware of a missed opportunity. By not working with bookstores to make e-books widely available, not just in the Kindle format, publishers are effectively making Amazon their biggest competitor.
I know this economy is tough, folks. Though I'm still fortunate enough to have my job, I have friends and family members and colleagues who have lost their jobs and are counting every penny. But *where* you spend your money is just as important as *how much* you spend. Think about what you want in your community and for your community when you're deciding what to purchase. And I can assure that Amazon does precious little for that community, no matter how many dollars you spend with them.