Suzanne McGee has this amusing piece in The Guardian. The winking photo of Jeff Bezos is alone worth the click-through. She suggests her book-buying activity may have helped Barnes & Noble’s bottom line. Recent results however suggest not, though no doubt the whopping effect won’t show till next quarter. This guest post on The Digital Reader by Rich Adin rings warning bells about Barnes and Noble. Slate suggests that the news for independent books stores is however better.

We have heard reports of people being “forced” to go to an independent bookstore because of the slowed-down delivery of Hachette titles, and there was that effort by Stephen Colbert to get everyone to buy one of the embargoed books, California by Edan Lepucki. I don’t know how that worked out; and I’m sure nobody’s going to give us real sales numbers. But signing 10,000 copies at Powells can’t be bad. (The beauty of a signed copy from the author and the publisher’s point of view is of course that the book cannot be returned to the publisher for credit.) Maybe there’s a contrarian way in which this story is good for book publishers — getting them talked about by people who can’t wait to get their hands on “the product” and rush off to the nearest bookstore.

Personally I would have expected the effect to be minor though. Having to wait a few days for a book wouldn’t be a big deal for me — but then of course I am definitely not part of the demographic allegedly inconvenienced by this Hachette slow-down, so I’m no doubt way off: the sales bump for California has been described as massive.

Clay Shirky’s Medium piece seems to be creating a stir. Magellan Media posts (linked via The Digital Reader) in support. As usual Mike Shatzkin is on hand to demolish the shaky Shirky shack. It’s no doubt an inevitability, but partisans will always slant arguments towards their side of the scales. This may not necessarily be a conscious distortion: if you spend hours arguing for this perspective as against that one, it is probably almost certain that perspective is something you will lose. This slanting the truth to suit your argument is illustrated by Shirky’s account of the early years of the paperback. What he says isn’t absolutely wrong: it’s just incomplete. And if it were complete it would be irrelevant to his argument, which is of course why consciously or unconsciously, he leaves it incomplete. Mr Shatzkin deals with this partial story with clarity.

I’m still not sure whether bricks-and-mortar retail has a future anyway in books or any other goods. Here’s a piece from Retail Customer Experience which discusses the future of retail in general, linked to by The Passive Voice. The future seems likely at the very least to involve joint on-line/physical store collaboration.

Of course we haven’t gotten any resolution of the Hachette-Amazon negotiations yet. It’s all gone quiet in the media — which is just as well. I suspect that whatever results, the world will look pretty much the same on the day after as it did the day before. Either Amazon will be a little bit more profitable, or Hachette will have managed to protect its margins. Earths don’t shatter on such outcomes. Longer-term trends however remain hard to make out. It may be significant that Simon & Schuster have just reached an agreement with Amazon, as of course have many smaller houses. Is it possible this story has been over-hyped?

 

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