9 April 09 | Chad W. Post

Putting aside the environmental, financial, and promotional advantages to sending eARCs to independent booksellers, the one paragraph of Jessica Stockton Bagnulo’s post that troubled me was this:

I think for a lot of booksellers right now, the idea of an e-reader provokes growls of hostility because it’s associated with the Kindle, which is a proprietary platform sold and administered by Amazon, our primary competitor. We indies can’t sell ebooks for the Kindle, so if readers buy a Kindle it means, on some level, lost sales for us. But the Kindle is not the only e-reader, nor even necessarily the best! The Sony Reader, the iPhone, the Google phone, and other electronic devices can also be used to read ebooks — and those platforms are wide open for ebook sales from indie bookstores, provided our ecommerce technology is up to par.

Just as we have to educate our customers (and ourselves) that Amazon is not the only option for buying online, we’ll have to make some efforts to make sure those who want to read ebooks know that they have options besides the Kindle, and that they can still “read indie while reading e” (feel free to steal that tagline). And ebook-reading booksellers are the perfect group to start spreading that word, to make sure that we can make ebooks a part of our business model rather than just more competition.

This all sounds good, but I’ve yet to see a realistic, functional business plan for an independent bookstore that incorporates the selling of e-books. Or even beyond that, a plan that even accounts for the attrition of book sales due to an increase in ebook popularity.

Independent bookstores run on such a small margin that if sales of e-books reach a certain level, I think bookstores are going to have to go through a transformation to stay in business, but I honestly can’t figure out what the end result of this transformation would look like.

The “bundling” idea—which Bob Miller of HarperStudio—is one that’s been talked about a lot. Basically, a reader could buy a book from a store, and then for an additional $2-$5 get a code to download the e-version of that same book.

Personally I doubt that I would ever do this, but some people might, and it’s not a bad way of incorporating bookstores into the equation.

That said, I think it’s foolish to overlook the draw of immediacy that e-books/readers will have over the mass readership in America. Americans are pretty impulsive people, and the idea that a book (or album, or whatever) could come up in conversation, and within one minute — without even leaving your barstool — you could purchase and download that book/album/movie is like crack to most of us.

If e-books do become a preferred way or reading — due to price, availability, the coolness of the e-reading gadget, etc. — then why would you ever go into a bookstore? To browse the physical books that you’ll then download through your e-reader for half the price? That’s not a viable bookstore business model.

Some people have also floated the idea of indie bookstores selling e-versions through their website, which, in my opinion, is beyond impractical. Most indie stores have very rudimentary e-commerce sites, despite the fact that people have been selling things online for decades . . . That’s probably not going to change if these same stores start selling e-books for download through their sites.

Sure, one can pretend that loyal customers will still purchase a download through their local store because they love it so much, but a) most customers aren’t loyal and b) unless that purchase can happen immediately and wirelessly (a la buying a book with a Kindle), it’s just simply not going to work.

Besides, a viable business model for e-reader creators is to include a “e-store” that’s wirelessly linked to the reader itself, allowing users a seamless interface between wanting a book and purchasing it, and Amazon/Sony gets to keep the profit from sales of the reader and sales of the book. Win-win . . . for everyone but bookstores.

I know that even if e-book sales expand, physical books will still exist. It’s not that which worries me. It’s the idea that with enough book sales turning electronic and occurring outside of bookstore, the miniscule margins keeping booksellers afloat will vanish . . .

So, maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe someone out there has a brilliant concept of what bookstores will look like in an e-reading future. Either way, feel free to e-mail (chad.post at rochester dot edu) or post your comments below. And I’m sure I’ll write more about this topic later . . .


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >