Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adventures in the book trade #5

Today in Wellington the board of Booksellers NZ is meeting to discuss the future, or at least as much of it as they may be able to discern, maybe three or four years’ worth. While some publishers and booksellers are doing well, overall it is a gloomy time for the industry.  So I bought a book today – Donna Malane’s NZ crime novel My Brother’s Keeper, because I liked her Pindar Publishing Prize-winning debut Surrender – but not many other people are doing the same.  

A straw in the wind is a story by Jenna Lynch in yesterday’s Waikato Times, headlined “Bennetts Books given heave-ho”. It begins:
After 20 years of providing Wintec students with textbooks, Bennetts bookstore has been given the shove to make way for an administration area for staff.
But while Wintec bosses say more students buying books online means they don’t need a bookstore on cam­pus, the shop’s owner says students still need the shop and Wintec is making a big mistake and students will have to cross town to the uni­versity branch to buy texts.
After Bennetts was moved from their permanent site in November last year, Wintec offered them a pop-­up shop to be run in the library until March 15.
Wintec spokeswoman Erin Ander­sen said more students were flock­ing online to buy their textbooks, and this was considered when deter­mining if an on-campus textbook supplier was needed.
“We believe the temporary store at the peak times at the start of each semester was an arrangement which best suited our students’ needs,” she said.
But Bennetts’ Wintec store man­ager Joy Leet said running the pop-­up store with very little resources, including a lack of communication facilities, was not feasible.
Ms Leet said without access to computers or phones, they could not adequately help students in the pop­up shop, so last week they packed up and left.
What will replace the bookshop? A Wintec spokesman said, “At this stage, the most likely option is for it to be fitted out as a cafĂ©.”

So here is Leonard Cohen in the 90s with “The Future”:


Mark Hubbard said...

I know traditional booksellers are having a hard time of it, and there's a certain shame to that, and inevitability, but it's hard to get a long view of overall book readership. If dead tree books and ebooks are taken together, are overall book sales trending up year on year, or down?

Stephen Stratford said...

Good question. I don't know, and don't know who would. It may well be that the amount of reading is the same - but that doesn't help people trying to sell actual books in an actual shop, the old-fashioned way. And ebooks are cheaper, rightly so, but that means less money for the distibutor and author. OTOH, lower costs. I really don't envy anyone in the trade right now. Most booksellers I talk to - and this ranges from good regional independents to the #2 at a major chain - say that if they didn't sell stationery they couldn't stay in business.

Linda Olssson said...

I thought it was interesting to hear that 2012 was the first year that income from electronic sales of music exceeded income from sales of CDs. I think we are in the eye of the storm at moment and it is hard to see what the landscape will look like when the wind settles. I remember that it was predicted that videos would be the death of cinemas. This didn't happen, of course. We will continue to read, too. And somehow the industry will find ways to adapt. Changes are painful, but they also offer new opportunities. The Swedish publishing industry has seen the emergence of some interesting small, focused and media savvy publishers, while the large old publishing houses are laying off staff. It is similar with book stores. The large chains are merging and reducing, while some independent book stores who know what they are doing are surviving reasonably well. It seems that it is the cheap end of paperback trading that is suffering the most.

Stephen Stratford said...

Indeed, Linda, we are all in the eye of the storm. It will get worse before it gets better. But I'm sure there will always be a place for small, smart, independent operators alongside the big beasts.

Mark Hubbard said...

Why under the ebook channel - excluding self published ebooks - do author's get less? There's no economic reason for that surely (indeed, the opposite, as overall costs are down)?