Why paper books and the independent bookstore aren't dead

  
Via:  Buzz of the Orient  •  3 months ago  •  5 comments

Why paper books and the independent bookstore aren't dead
 

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Why paper books and the independent bookstore aren't dead


Turns out all those dire predictions were wrong.


By Starr Vartan, Mother Nature Network, December 28 2018

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Don't ring the death toll for independent bookstores just yet. (Photo: Michael Voelker/Flickr)

I love books, and to an irrational degree.

In books, I find psychological and emotional refuge, education and deep wisdom that I just don't find elsewhere. My passion is connected to the words and the form they come in — printed pages bound together. So I'm not afraid to admit that when I read an article about how print book sales had risen (modestly) and e-book sales had declined (a bit) and that the number of independent bookstores had increased over the past year, I shed tears of joy.




It wasn't that long ago that everyone was predicting the end of print and the demise of small bookstores. If people were reading, they were doing it digitally, and if they were buying paper books, they weren't getting them from independent shops. The future looked grim for small stores.

But more and more, we keep hearing about the resurgence of the independent bookstore and how print is not dying after all. As The New York Times reported in 2015, "While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply."

And one wonderful consequence of the changing market is that bookstores are slowly coming back.

"That's right. The phoenix rises from the ashes. According to the American Booksellers Association, there are now 2,321 independent bookstores in the United States," reported NPR's Paddy Hirsch in March 2018. "And there are a couple of things that happened to prepare the grind for this recovery. First, when Amazon came along, the independents were decimated, sure. But the corporates - the big-box stores and the chains - they really got crushed. Borders, for instance, went out of business altogether. So that left a gap for the indies to fill."

That's hundreds of new, independent bookstores — which is just plain exciting. (I love to find local booksellers whenever I'm in a new city or town, and I know I'm not alone in that regard.)

The good news started to turn around a few years ago. Plus, sales at independent bookstores were up about 5 percent in 2018 from the year before, according to the American Booksellers Association. Bookstores in the U.K. also are experiencing increased revenue. Nielsen Bookscan statistics show year-on-year growth of 22 billion GBP with 2018 book sales reaching 1.59 billion GBP, reported The Guardian.

"I think the worst days of the independents are behind them," Jim Milliot, coeditorial director for Publishers Weekly magazine, told the Christian Science Monitor in 2013. "The demise of traditional print books has been a bit overblown. Everybody is a little anxious, but they are starting to think they've figured it out for the time being."

Why people want print


Woman-Reads-Book-Shakespeare-And-Company

Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris has been open since 1919. (Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock.com)

What media stories don't delve into are the reasons behind the stagnation in e-books and slight-but-real increase in demand for printed books. I don't think this is anything like the niche nostalgia that's driving vinyl record sales, which is still a tiny part of the huge music industry. Print book sales are still 80 percent of the market, the dominant form.

Could it be that, unlike music, there's a real decline in utility when you choose e-books over printed ones — and only a marginal gain in efficiency? Are printed books simply a superior format — as my friend David Lanphier Jr. commented on Facebook?

Yes, you can carry a number of books with you on an e-book reader, which is an undeniable bonus. But most of us are only reading a couple of books at a time, and it's not that hard to choose one or two books to carry around. For those who need larger print, e-readers are a definite win. If you live far from your local library, e-books are also a great solution.

And some people like looking up words, which is convenient with an e-reader. But in the days of smartphones, it's almost as easy to grab your phone to check, so I'd call that one a wash.

But unlike music, printed books are far sturdier and more reliable than e-readers. Many of my books have been dropped into water, partially set on fire by candles or campfires, and I hardly own a book that hasn't had soup, coffee, tea, or water splashed on it. Printed books suffer all these indignities and more: Dogs chewing on them, toddlers throwing them out the car window, or use as a seat for butt protection against damp grass. All of those books are still readable.

You can take a biography to the seaside or read in the swimming pool as I'm wont to do without concern. You can throw a mystery in your backpack and take it to the top of the mountain and not care if it starts raining or your water bottle spills on it. You can keep reading in an Oregon drizzle and then dry that poetry out next to the fire. You can place a novel over your face and nap in the sunshine, breathing printer's ink and words. You can even use the pages of a memoir to mop up a bit of blood when you fall off your mountain bike and cut your knee. (What? You've never bloodied a book?)

You can't toss a terrible e-book across the room in frustration (cough, Nicholas Sparks, cough), and of course e-book publishers have made sharing titles nigh-impossible.

Of course, if you don't like clutter, e-books are great; but if you love books, lots of them stacked up is comforting. And the used book market is still a relatively strong one, so just sell them if you don't want to keep them around. You can then buy more books, something you can't do with electronic copies of books. I buy used books for $5-8 each, then sell roughly two-thirds of them back to the bookseller for $3-4 credit. So new used books only end up costing me a few bucks, or I can put my credit towards a new title, cutting the cost below that of an e-book copy. Unless you're buying new books all the time, I've found digital copies to be a significantly more expensive way to go.

Reading-Article-Book-Tablet-Digital.jpg.

Reading text in a digital format isn't always the best way to get all the information from a story. (Photo: smokingapples.com/Flickr)

Besides being fragile, e-readers make scanning back into a book's content difficult, because your story memory is not tied to a physical object and "spot" within it. You have to remember a word or phrase from the section you want to find. When I'm writing an article with books as reference, I find e-readers impossible to use; same with looking up a favorite few lines for reference later in my journal. And it's not just because I didn't grow up a digital native; even those who have grown up with e-readers and tablets still prefer print. According to Scholastic, "Nearly two-thirds of children (65%) — up from 2012 (60%) — agree that they’ll always want to read print books even though there are ebooks available."

And as Lanphier added to his Facebook comment about this topic, "...my 6 and 1/2 year old niece has an iPad, and she reads on it, but she will read a book too. And, will choose a book over the iPad reading... because a book has that experience. You don't see moms and kids and dads and kids gathered around the iPad reading together. But, you see them doing that with books."

Clearly, I'm thrilled books are here to stay. And it looks like the next generation will love their printed books just as I do.

Editors's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in September 2015.

Buzz note:  I just remembered that if you are not a member of the Books group and wish to comment on this article, it is necessary to join the group.  That is no problem, just click this link, then click "Join Group" and you automatically become a member:

https://thenewstalkers.com/bob-nelson/group/65/books

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Buzz of the Orient
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    3 months ago

In Toronto I had a great library, collected for more than 50 years.  There were vintage and antique books crowned by an annually updated Encyclopedia Britannica, but books are heavy and I sold almost everything except a few that I particularly treasured before moving to China.  Here I was limited to what China would permit, but at least they do permit many classics in English to be sold here.  The best translated to English Chinese book I read was the 2600 page (4 volume) 16th century classic Journey to the West, virtually required reading for every Chinese student, all about the Su Wukong, the Monkey King. However, I was rescued by a very good friend of mine (who has since unfortunately passed on from lung cancer) with an e-reader loaded with 244 books of considerable variety, that I am still reading, presently on the second book by Bill Bryson, which I am enjoying greatly.

So the question comes up of what do we prefer, printed books or an e-reader.  For convenience, like during travelling, the e-reader is a lifesaver, but my preference will always be for printed books.  If for no other reasons, that there are no batteries to run out while in the middle of a page, and for being able to flip back easily to find something I particularly wanted to refer to.

What would you prefer between electronic and paper? and why?

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    2 months ago

I like a paper book when I'm sitting outside in the sun. The sun glares off my Kindle and I can't read it.

As I get older, it gets harder for me to hold a book so I like the Kindle for that reason

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
2  Perrie Halpern R.A.    2 months ago

test.

 
 
 
It Is ME
3  It Is ME    2 months ago

I luv those "Trade in your old books" book stores. There is only one left in my area, but it makes books fun. I have found MANY books I've wanted to read at a major discount. Two of the great things about those old Stores is 1st, going thru your old books and setting the price of each to know what you will have to spend on other old books, and 2nd, the smell when you walk in. Nothing like the smell of old books !

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  It Is ME @3    2 months ago
"Nothing like the smell of old books !"

Agreed. There's something really comfortable about it.

 
 
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