Shatzkin: Taking the Temperature of Libraries and Bookstores
Recently, I sat down with Mike Shatzkin, book publishing consultant and Digital Book World 2014 conference chair, to talk about a wide range of topics, including many that will be covered at DBW 2014. Over the next few months, I will be bringing you some of his insights, many of which will be expounded upon and made into practical, applicable takeaways at the conference itself. Learn more on how you can attend.
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Ever since the late 1990s, when Amazon made its presence known as a bookseller, the only constant in the book retail marketplace has been change. First it was Barnes & Noble building its empire across the nation, sweeping aside competition. Then it was Amazon growing in market share and power, an era that culminated with the successful launch of the Kindle e-reader in 2007. A few short years later, the second-largest bookstore chain in the U.S., Borders, closed its doors. Meanwhile, libraries have been steadily fighting to keep their budgets up and their shelves stocked with new releases.
Today, every quarterly report from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association and others brings fresh speculation as to where the book retail marketplace is going, how ebooks are influencing it and what the future holds.
I sat down with Mike Shatzkin to discuss.
Jeremy Greenfield: Despite what you may read, some booksellers are being very innovative when it comes to their trade, including embracing ebooks. Some are doing very well right now. At DBW this year, there will be a panel talking to some of these booksellers.
Mike Shatzkin: We have four very successful independent booksellers, moderated by a very experienced commissioned rep. I can tell you from talking to these booksellers that they believe that what they do could be done by other people in other places and that they could make money, too.
At least one or two of them have Kobo relationships — is that working? How do they compete online with Amazon? Do they feel price pressure?
The commissioned rep will be able to tell them whether their ideas work elsewhere. It’s about the future of the bookstore channel and how publishers can help.
JG: What about libraries? That’s a vital sales channel for publishers and a place that librarians say readers discover new books and authors.
MS: The question for libraries is, how is your present and how do you see your future? Many libraries are now claiming their value is that they’re the internet connection of last resort. Libraries better have other propositions besides for that.
JG: How should publishers be thinking about libraries?
MS: Publishers need to take a frequent temperature check in libraries. They need to assume that the library environment is going to keep changing in ways that we can’t really predict; except that we can predict that books and other information become readily more available wherever readers are — on their phone and tablet — and the need for them to go to libraries for information is going to diminish.
JG: That must be worrisome for bricks-and-mortar concerns.
MS: I don’t understand how any librarian and bookstore owner can ignore that.
Publishers should not expect the library market to grow for the next 20 years. There may not be much of a library market in 20 years.
JG: So what should publishers do?
MS: Keep trying to sell to it; keep trying to use it; keep your eye on it.