Mike Shatzkin tells us in his recent post at The Idea Logical Company, about supply chain planning at Barnes & Noble, that “When B&N was building out its capabilities at the turn of this century, the number of possible titles was probably not even a million and many of their stores carried over 100,000. Now there well over 10 million titles available through Ingram’s print-on-demand database plus nearly a million more in warehouse stock (which includes most of what is new and sells the fastest), and the retail stores carry a third or less than they did back then.”

That’s a lot of books. No wonder Amazon’s doing the majority of book sales in the world: there are few bookstores which can afford to stock more than a tiny fraction of available books. But even Amazon are feeling the pressure of the over-supply of books, and are cutting quantities in their warehouses. It’s always hard to schedule truck deliveries in the Christmas season, and this one seems to be worse than others: so if they are out of stock of a book this month, it’ll probably take a bit longer to get it back to availability than in the past. What I wonder is whether they are having the same difficulty scheduling trucks which are loaded with higher-margin merchandise. I bet not.

In a typically dyspeptic take on Mike Shatzkin’s post The Passive Voice assures us that the days of the bookstore are numbered. He ends his comments by declaring “In past decades, PG [the Passive Guy, as the author of PV likes to refer to himself] would sometimes visit a bookstore to kill some time in a pleasant manner. The electronic devices in his pocket or on his desk provide a much better time-killing service than any bookstore he has ever visited.” I dare say his local bookstore isn’t too concerned by his desertion.

Our breaths are bated as we stand on the brink of change. Will the dauntless Mr Daunt save B & N? Will PG get his way and find there are no shops in which to kill his time? Or on the contrary will independent bookstores continue their modest renaissance? Will Amazon get out of books? Will the ABA bookstore “Bookshop” work? Will big publishers turn into small publishers? Stay tuned.