Publisher’s Weekly today ran this story: “Does President Obama Hate Indie Bookstores?”
This is one perspective on the Amazon phenomenon. I have another—if the shoe fits, wear it.
I see a great irony in the fact that this story ran online and most likely will never be in a print publication sold in bookstores.
While I do bemoan the troubles of indie bookstores—I have house (and garage) filled with books, the majority of them bought at indie bookstores—the fact is these stores need to acknowledge the evolution of book publishing and selling, and if they don’t adapt, they will become extinct.
I don’t know what that adaptation means in practical terms (although Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, may be a model to examine), but the traditional book industry seems to be mired in a 19th century/early 20th century mentality and appears to be the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
Are indie bookstores supporting indie authors? Often times, no. Rather, they pander to the deep pockets in New York. Last week, I sold nearly 350 books through Amazon alone (no freebies). How many did I sell in indie bookstores? None that I’m aware of. I have readers going to their favorite local bookstore and asking for my book, only to be told it’s not in stock, although it could be ordered. So the potential bookstore customer who doesn’t want to wait goes to one of the online retailers instead, and often that means buying from Amazon.
Even if an indie bookstore agrees to host a book signing for an indie author, the terms may require a one-day consignment deal—and please take any unsold books with you when you leave.
Don’t get me wrong. I like indie bookstores, and I have events scheduled for three of them. I am highly appreciative of this. But when a regional booksellers association starts pointing fingers of blame, I suggest it do a little introspection first.
If it weren’t for Amazon and other online book sellers, most indie publishers would sell only a handful of books. For them, Amazon represents an opportunity to become successful entrepreneurs, a la Amanda Hocking and E.L. James. The big publishers (or the literary agents they rely on as gatekeepers) not only failed to recognize Hocking, James, and others as potential best-sellers, they are now looking upon Amazon as a minor league farm system that allows them to identify potential money-makers with zero risk.
We could just as easily say that Amazon nurtures and supports the smallest of businesses. How is that a bad thing?
Rather than blame Obama, perhaps the Southern Independent Booksellers Association should instead label the Amazon juggernaut as “progress” and, like the buggy whip manufacturers of a century ago, figure out how to adapt and survive in a changing world or risk becoming a footnote in history.