There have already been countless blog and news posts about this already, but I think it’s fitting for “self publishing” Tuesdays to at least mention it. Some bloggers are also signaling the book apocalypse. Run for the hills! Kindle owners and writers first!
Are we doomed?
Nah, but it’s kind of a big deal.
Here’s a pic I snapped yesterday as I walked from my hotel to my client here in Louisville:
Well, Borders had been struggling for quite a while now. They owe major debts to several large publishers (they haven’t paid for their books!) and perhaps this is just our American free economy weeding out the businesses who don’t have the acumen to compete any longer. Survival of the fittest and all that.
I dunno. Though I’m uncertain where all of this will lead, I’m of the same mind as one of the bloggers I linked — we need books. Though I was raised on movies and video games, books were always a major part of my life. They rounded me out and gave me a sharp set of eyes while I consumed these other media types. Fiction spurred my imagination and intellect. User guides turned me into a hack programmer and BBS privateer at the tender age of 11. Historical books (like my favorite one on Genghis Khan) taught me a little about the world around me. Sci-Fi and Fantasy art books made their way into my house from the library almost every week. My mom’s romance novels provided a young boy… well, let’s just say I learned quite a bit about sex thanks to these bodice-rippers.
Books were just integral to my development and I cannot imagine any life without them.
Does one major bookstore going bankrupt mean the next generation will be without this important contact with the printed word? Not necessarily, but the trends are interesting to watch. Less bookstores means fewer books in the hands of our youth. Though you can purchase anything online, the removal of a physical presence in our world diminishes a thing’s cultural relevance. Impulse and “walk-by” purchases become more difficult if you cannot find a bookstore. The near spiritual act (for some of us) of heading to a bookstore to browse may someday be a thing of the past – who knows what impact that will have upon the number of new readers each generation produces.
What does this mean for self-publishers? Well, just like any revolution, the chaos of our times presents many opportunities for a savvy freelancer. The explosion of the online marketplace gives us tools we’ve never had before, tools traditionally reserved for the publishing houses. While the major publishers scramble to make sense of everything, we can swoop in with great speed and lower prices to consumers (never underestimate speed, my friends, in any facet of your life).
Book browsing may soon become more a measure of peer review/product linkage and less about who published your book. In my mind, this is long overdue and I do hope it becomes a reality. All my life, I haven’t read books based upon who published them. I’ve read books based upon these 3 things alone: the blurb/cover, word of mouth (sometimes) and if I think it’ll keep me entertained. I only finish a book if that last point is met as I read.
Imagine a world where we can be led to books that meet our interests and seem to be enjoyable for like-minded folk.
Wouldn’t that be a better way to be connected with our books?
Or, do people honestly feel that the opinion of some agent/publisher is the only viable gateway to books reaching our night stands?
Well, like most things, I believe the middle ground will become the road most traveled in the years to come. Big publishers will still churn out their well-vetted content (even if a ton of it is cookie-cutter these days) and self-publishers will still produce content that ranges from garbage to niche masterpiece.
So, while I’m saddened by a bookstore closing and removing its immediacy from our culture, I’m also excited by the trends in the publishing landscape. The people reading books are exercising their power to shape the purchasing landscape, and that means more opportunities for us freelancers.