5 Reasons Books and Bookstores Aren’t Dead Yet
The Norwegian government is planning to digitize all the books (in Norwegian, at any rate) by the mid 2020s, thereby preparing Norwegians for the “deep future,” replete with digital books. With efforts to do so proceeding at a paltry rate in the U.S. (Google and the Digital Public Library of American be darned), who knows but we might have to learn Norwegian if we’d like to keep reading in ages to come.
1. Some independent bookstores are holding their own.
Sales at independent bookstores were up by about 8 percent in 2012 thanks to sales of, yes, books. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was one of the titles that especially helped independent bookstores (to the point that Publishers Weekly chose the trilogy’s author, E.L. James, as its 2012 Person of the Year).
There are other reasons that people are going to independent bookstores besides getting their hands on a soft-porn bestseller, The Atlantic notes. One is the growing interest in shopping local. Even though a neighborhood bookstore may not be able to beat Amazon or Barnes and Noble with pricing, nothing beats the “grassroots accessibility” of independent bookstores and the good old-fashioned appeal of human interaction.
2. Technology doesn’t only benefit Amazon and ebooks
Yes, the Internet and mega retailer sites have contributed to the demise of many a bookstore, small and large. Technology is also helping independent bookstores make their operations more efficient, as Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association notes to the Atlantic.
In recent years, many bookstores have also come under the management of “new proprietors who are adept and entrepreneurial” when it comes to using all the latest tools of technology. Not only do many bookstores now have a “full range of technology tools to track sales, order and replenish inventory, and improve store management”; they also often have “active websites that enable them to communicate with customers” and have adopted social media to draw in customers.
3. Publishers have realized they need to extend a hand to indie stores.
Publishers have been working more closely with independent bookstores, offering them incentives and even funds for marketing and advertising. “Some publishers are offering longer terms to pay. Some offer slightly better discounts, so our cost of goods is a little less,” says Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books in Seattle, to NPR.
That is, publishers understand that Amazon can’t “be the only game in town.” They’re willing to work with independent bookstores more because they “want retail bookstores to survive.”
4. Kids prefer books to ebooks.
Today’s children and teenagers may have been operating an e-device since they were able to crawl over to the laptop that mom or dad left on the couch, but an online survey conducted for Booknet Canada, a non-profit industry organization that tracks sales and trends, recently found that kids prefer books to ebooks.
27 percent of the 200 teens (between 14 and 17 years old) used ereaders. But only a few responded that “they actually prefer digital books or could see themselves eschewing paperbacks for good.” Only one percent of parents with children 13 and younger said that their kids read more ebooks than real books.
5. Parents (including the tech savvy) prefer books for kids too.
About 800 parents total were interviewed for the Booknet Canada survey. A Pew Research survey that came out earlier this year polled more than 2,000 people aged 16 years and over and found that parents †continue to value books for their children.
Some parents recalled fond memories of trips to the library or local bookstore and cited the sensory pleasures of turning the pages of a book. More than a few spoke of wanting to model reading habits for their kids, with one parent commenting
ďIím reading like a book [on a tablet] and my children donít know if Iím reading a book or if Iím playing on Twitter, so I think itís important to have the book so that they go, ĎOh, Dadís readingí . . . not just, ĎOh heís updating his Facebook page.í I think there is like a difference in that.Ē
There is indeed, just as it’s one thing to buy your aunt a book with one-click purchasing and another to spend time perusing the shelves at a local store while enjoying a cup of hot cider. Some independent bookstores passed this out to celebrate “Cider Monday” on “Cyber Monday.” The stores promised that their “servers” would not be “overloaded” — though if they were due to more people walking amid their shelves, it’s additional traffic that we can welcome.
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