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Bookstores dying

Switch Blayde

I'm reading an article on "America's 24 dying industries" and came across #22:

22. BOOKSTORES AND NEWS DEALERS
> Employment change 2007-2016: -42.9%
> Employment total: 86,521
> Wage growth 2007-2016: 15.6%
> Avg. annual wage: $20,133

Over the past decade, traditional book stores and news dealers have struggled to compete with the rise of digital media and e-commerce retailers. Borders, at one time the second largest bookstore chain the United States, closed all of its locations by 2011. The number of bookstores nationwide fell from 11,728 in 2007 to 7,889 in 2016 -- a 32.7% decline. The number of bookstore and newsstand employees fell by 42.9% over the same period, one of the largest declines of any industry.

Amazon has been a major force in the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores, today accounting for 41% of all book sales. While e-commerce has hurt brick-and-mortar bookstores, the low prices offered by Amazon has led to more book sales overall, creating more opportunities for writers and publishers. In the past 10 years, the number of independent artists and writers in United States rose 3.9%, more than a majority of industries

Replies:   REP  AmigaClone
REP
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Those are some very interesting facts SB.

We should also take into consideration that readers tastes vary and a 'brick and mortar' bookstore has limited shelf space. I have gone into some of those stores and they don't carry my favorite authors' books. Others have a limited supply; mostly the new releases. Book stores typically offer books from the dead tree publishers with a limited E-book selection in the store. You can forget about finding a self-published author in the store (personal opinion).

The net result of your facts, the above, and other facts is the 'brick and mortar' book stores can't compete with on-line book stores. Unfortunately, the demise of those book stores still in business is just a matter of time. :(

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

'brick and mortar' book stores can't compete with on-line book stores.


Exactly.

Newstands were included here with bookstores. As I continued reading the article, newspapers were much higher on the list of dying industries. They simply can't compete with online (web, phones, etc.) for advertising dollars.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Switch Blayde

Very true.

The obvious next question is, what does this mean to us as readers and our society?

Off hand, the dead-tree portion of the publishing industry was practicing a form of censorship by not printing the works of unknown authors. This censorship resulted in the unknown authors turning to self-publishing e-books. That in turn diminishes the dead-tree publishing industry's profits. If they fail to do something to revitalize the sale of books printed on paper, they will be going out of business also.

However, the sale of e-books by companies like Amazon and EBay are on the rise. Shelf space and warehousing are not required for digital books so they are not limited in their offerings to the public. However, as you, CW, and EB often discuss these companies have business practices that are not acceptable to many authors. That will probably lead to the rise of other vendors. Where it will all lead is a major unknown, but it will lead somewhere.

Switch Blayde

@REP

However, the sale of e-books by companies like Amazon and EBay are on the rise. Shelf space and warehousing are not required for digital books so they are not limited in their offerings to the public.


Not just e-books. When you buy a print book from Amazon, it's print on demand (POD) meaning they don't store the book. They print and mail it when it's purchased.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

When you buy a print book from Amazon, it's print on demand (POD) meaning they don't store the book. They print and mail it when it's purchased.


I rather doubt that this is true for new releases from the traditional dead tree publishers, though it may be true for back catalog books

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Not_a_ID

@Switch Blayde

Not just e-books. When you buy a print book from Amazon, it's print on demand (POD) meaning they don't store the book. They print and mail it when it's purchased.


The bigger thing for Amazon vs Book Stores is that location is not a factor. That dead tree book can just as easily be in Indiana as it could be somewhere in Nevada. Amazon's costs for shipping from either location matter very little, and their model means they don't really need to duplicate inventory between warehouses.

They still duplicate a lot of inventory, but being able to sell from any warehouse, rather than just one storefront's inventory is huge.

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

I rather doubt that this is true for new releases from the traditional dead tree publishers,


True. I forgot about that side of the business. But those are the same books in bookstores so it's a good point.

Not_a_ID

Remember, Wal-Mart sells books they think will move in any kind of volume.

sejintenej

I simply don't understand the book selling business. How on earth can anyone even print and circulate books at the discounts being given to the public?

I cannot remember paying anything like full price for any book - the latest, a big hardback, 318 pages, well printed had a recommended retail price of £25 when published in 2015. I bought it last year when the bookseller marked it down to £6 and then the till took 75% off that. A paperback, 854 pages normally £35 I got for £5. A 450 page hardback published 2009 at €45 cost €4.50. They all textbooks, not novels etc.

ALL were bought in neighbourhood shops - not Amazon etc. At least one major book chain has failed, the bookstore subsidiary of another major group seems to be no more whilst one is cutting 75% off seemingly almost everything. I regret to admit that I use the internet just as much as my books for information

sunkuwan

I gave up on bookstores when Thalia took everything over. The "bestseller" lists were just advertised spaces where anyone could buy a place in the top 10.
Also, it got more and more difficult to find authors or series I liked. Sure, I could order it to the shop, but what was the point if I could just order it myself to my home?

richardshagrin

@sejintenej

discounts

Stores of all types, not just book stores, have an inventory problem. If things don't sell, and aren't expected to sell, and they can't be sent back to the manufacturer for a credit, they can either be sent to the dump or given a very low price and let the public take them away. Some food gets given to charitable institutions (food banks) and the merchant probably gets a charitable deduction on their taxes, but there is only so much space for inventory in almost all stores, and it has to be moved, one way or another, so new goods can be processed and put on the shelves for sale. Particularly text books are only current for as long as the teaching institution requires students to buy them for the course they are taking. Instructors who write textbooks tend to require the textbooks they wrote be used, but if some other professor takes the class, the textbooks he likes become required and the old ones are now surplus.

Grant

Yet some bookstores are doing well.

In Britain, sales of printed books rose 8 per cent in 2016, while the sales of e-books plunged 17 per cent.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-06/book-boom-keeps-canal-boat-bookshop-afloat/9308166

Replies:   Dominions Son  Not_a_ID
Dominions Son

@sejintenej

I simply don't understand the book selling business. How on earth can anyone even print and circulate books at the discounts being given to the public?


The publisher is still getting full price. Either the retailer or a wholesaler is eating the cost of the discount.

Keeping a physical object like a book in inventory costs money. At some point, the cost of keeping an item in inventory exceeds the the profit that could be made by selling the item at full price.

At that point, it's in the financial best interest of the retailer to discount the item as far a necessary to get it out of inventory. Recouping some of the money spent on the item rather than losing the entire wholesale cost.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Dominions Son

@Grant

A novelty book store (the store itself is a bit of a novelty, not that is sells novelty books) in an area with high tourist traffic.

It would be more convincing if the article were about a more traditional style bookstore with a fixed location in an area where it was dependent primarily on local sales rather than tourist traffic.

Replies:   Grant
Not_a_ID

@Dominions Son

Keeping a physical object like a book in inventory costs money. At some point, the cost of keeping an item in inventory exceeds the the profit that could be made by selling the item at full price.


Which isn't even getting into the costs of operating a retail/commercial space where emphasis needs to be placed on the retail part. Commercial properties in general aren't cheap, but a commercial property where a lot of retail activity is happening? That's expensive territory.

There also is "image" and accessibility to throw into the mix as well, which will also tend to result in lower capacity per square foot of floor space being paid for compared to say, a large commercial warehouse.

A warehouse, which doesn't have to worry about pretty, or "Accessible" can pack a lot of product into a little piece of space. Something the retailer cannot do on the customer side. Further, they can locate their warehouse in an area where real estate costs aren't so expensive, further improving their operating margins

Not_a_ID

@Grant

Yet some bookstores are doing well.


Without looking at the article, I'm guessing they're either "rare books" or they're a book store that provides a number of other services in addition to books. Such as the book store cafe model that Barnes & Noble as well as Borders explored(to not much long-term success in their case).

It isn't that book stores cannot survive what is going on, but they have to be creative and very "outside the box" in how they approach it. They have to know their local market very well, identify a niche that isn't just books, and exploit it for all its worth.

Grant

@Dominions Son

It would be more convincing if the article were about a more traditional style bookstore with a fixed location in an area where it was dependent primarily on local sales rather than tourist traffic.

It's location is (presently) fixed, but yes a big reason for it's success is it's novelty.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Grant

It's location is (presently) fixed


It currently has a long term berth it operates from, but the book store itself is a canal boat, not a fixed location. If tourist activity moves, they can move the shop.

Dominions Son

@Not_a_ID

I'm guessing they're either "rare books" or they're a book store that provides a number of other services in addition to books.


Neither. It's a tourist attraction, a book store built on a canal boat that has a berth in an area with high tourist traffic.

Wheezer

My wife & I have switched completely to E-books. She reads on an Android tablet with a Kindle app & I read on my PC with an app, and sometimes on my smartphone when I am waiting somewhere away from home. I also buy the occasional E-Pub in other formats. The number one reason is our deteriorating vision as we age. With Kindle it is a simple matter to change the font size to something we can read easily. Not possible with print books.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
AmigaClone

@Switch Blayde

e-commerce retailers


Personally I view them as a modern twist on an older concept - Mail Order Catalogues.

The speed at which the order is received by the company and the shipped product arrives at the customer's door has increased.

Replies:   graybyrd
Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

not just book stores, have an inventory problem. If things don't sell, and aren't expected to sell, and they can't be sent back to the manufacturer for a credit,


Bookstores can.

If a book doesn't sell, they tear off the cover and send it back to the publisher for credit. The book gets thrown awayl

Replies:   Dominions Son  AmigaClone  REP
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

If a book doesn't sell, they tear off the cover and send it back to the publisher for credit.


And a couple of major book store chains have been accused by the publishers of cheating, returning the covers to the publisher for credit and then turning around and selling the coverless books into the used book market.

AmigaClone

@Switch Blayde


If a book doesn't sell, they tear off the cover and send it back to the publisher for credit. The book gets thrown away


I have seen a message to that effect in at least some of my books.

Note: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen propriety. It has been reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author or the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."


I imagine that a large chain might find it easier to return books than a small single "family owned and operated" bookstore. A large chain might also have books that don't sell in some locations shipped to others that have trouble keeping them on the shelves.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Capt. Zapp

@AmigaClone

Note: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen propriety. It has been reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author or the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."


Yeah, I really like that warning. I don't know how many books I have accidentally ripped the cover off of, or had the glue fail on the spine and the cover fall off. Does that mean that my book, which I paid for, is now stolen?

Kinda like the 'do not remove this tag under penalty of law' on pillows and mattresses.

Ross at Play

@Capt. Zapp

Kinda like the 'do not remove this tag under penalty of law' on pillows and mattresses.

Perhaps the most successful idea any advertiser has ever had was pillow manufacturer should print on them "We recommend this pillow be replaced in [some year]". Sales increased by hundreds of percents!

StarFleet Carl

@Capt. Zapp

Kinda like the 'do not remove this tag under penalty of law' on pillows and mattresses.


Yep. The mattress police will get you otherwise!

StarFleet Carl

@Not_a_ID

Such as the book store cafe model that Barnes & Noble as well as Borders explored


I suspect that in a college town these will survive.

There's something satisfying about going into a B&N, getting a cup of coffee, grabbing a couple of books, then plopping into a comfy chair and just sitting and reading for a couple of hours.

If one of the hardcover or specialty books that I'm then interested in is on their clearance rack, I'll purchase it from them. Otherwise, I use my Amazon app and scan the UPC, then buy it from Amazon if it's more than 25% cheaper through Amazon. If it's not, then I'll to buy it from B&N.

StarFleet Carl

@Wheezer

The number one reason is our deteriorating vision as we age.


You know, they've recently invented this device that helps with that. They're called prescription lenses and fit into these things known as eyeglasses...

(I've worn them for 5 decades. I have 20/600 in one eye, 20/40 in the other, both corrected to 20/15.)

While I appreciate the convenience of reading on my iPad - I have downloaded many stories from this site to it - I prefer to actually hold a book in my hand. And the minor detail that a physical book is both EMP-proof as well as will continue to work in an extended power outage due to bad weather does make a difference in my thinking.

sejintenej

@richardshagrin

Particularly text books are only current for as long as the teaching institution requires students to buy them for the course they are taking.

I used the words "text books" to indicate that the contents are how to do specific jobs rather than those used for scholastic purposes. One, not previously referred to, written by Escoffier was published in 1907. Apart from having to divide every weight by 5 or 10 it is just good as my Thomas Keller's French Laundry books which are pretty modern. 80% of the Mrs Beeton (from Victorian years) which I gave my daughter is still applicable in the same way
I read what other contributors have written; given the plethora of competing books I still don't understand why the publishers even print most of them - very few if any will be "classics"

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP

@Switch Blayde

The book gets thrown awayl


Or donated to a school or charity, which may sell the book to the public.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play
Updated:

@sejintenej

Thomas Keller's French Laundry books

I assume you meant "Cookery" books.

My recommendation for the perfect gift for any Australian teenager is Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery.

They'll hate you at the time, but years later they will thank you.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ross at Play

Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

Not one I know so looked it up on Amazon; excellent reviews of the book, the electronic versions slated However second hand versions from £161.03 and new at £569.47 for +/- 1000 pages - phew! I would be looking in the second hand and charity shops. At 80- the authoress is still churning them out

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@sejintenej

second hand versions from £161.03 and new at £569.47

WTF?

Send me an email if you ARE interested.
I'd happily arrange for a friend in Australia to buy the latest hard cover version for AUD$45 and post it to you.
Kindle version is only AUD$10 at amazon.com.au.

BTW, your post reminded me of something a good friend once said to me. I mentioned buying this for both my nephews and she said, "Yeah, but you might add the French Cookbook by Jamie Oliver. That's all they'll ever really need."

Switch Blayde

@REP

The book gets thrown awayl

Or donated to a school or charity, which may sell the book to the public.


I don't think so. It's a return, but they only send the cover to reduce costs.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Switch Blayde

Several years ago, my daughter's school library had a used book sale to dispose of their excess books. Several paperbacks had missing covers.

I was told a local book store had donated several boxes of books they could not sell and all had missing covers.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

However, as you, CW, and EB often discuss these companies have business practices that are not acceptable to many authors. That will probably lead to the rise of other vendors. Where it will all lead is a major unknown, but it will lead somewhere.

One place it'll lead, is new ebook 'distributors' (like Amazon, lulu, SW and D2D) popping up, with whoever uses the latest technology becoming the clear winner. At this point, both lulu and SW have the OLDEST tech, having done little to improve their story posting process or even add new features. D2D is clearly MUCH easier to use, but since they have no sales market to speak of, there's little driving authors there. Amazon, meanwhile, clearly has the capital to spend on improving their products, though currently, they're mainly spending it sidelining competing products. :(

The other detail about 'the decline of books', is to always remain skeptical. The BIG bookstores like B&N ARE on the decline, but the past several years, we've seen a substantial improvement in the small 'specialty' bookstores which cater to dedicated readers (rather than passive readers passing through a mall or airport on their way to do something else). These WON'T make up the sheer volume, but 'bookstores' are hardly dying, just evolving.

Meanwhile, the mainstream publishers have ALWAYS detested the very concept of ebooks. So they CONTINUALLY announce that the ebook market it dwindling. For mainstream books, priced at $20+, with their ebooks often selling for $27+, readers will almost ALWAYS go with the print books (even if they purchase them on Amazon). However, there are still plenty of people purchasing ebooks directly from the distributors or even the authors themselves.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Not just e-books. When you buy a print book from Amazon, it's print on demand (POD) meaning they don't store the book. They print and mail it when it's purchased.

Not exactly true. Amazon doesn't have many bookstores, but they have HUGE warehouses spread across the country. In order to ship immediately, they 'pre-print' most books (without paying for it), only paying the authors when they ship our the final product (withdrawing the funds if the user decides they really 'don't need it').

Thus Amazon has at least dozens of each book. I can honestly say, they have several of each of my print books, even though I've hardly sold any myself. You may never see the sales, but that doesn't mean they aren't printing and keeping them handy.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

For mainstream books, priced at $20+, with their ebooks often selling for $27+, readers will almost ALWAYS go with the print books (even if they purchase them on Amazon).


What exactly are you calling mainstream?

Personally, I would consider the "mainstream" for dead tree books to be mass market paperbacks because that's where the highest sales volume is.

Prices for new mass market paper backs range from $4.99 to $9.99 and that price range has persisted for more than 30 years.

docholladay

One problem is the retailers have gotten lazy. They let the distributors stock their shelves. Now those distributors get commissions not a salary. Some genres give them a higher commission rate than others. All books have to be returned in a certain number of days, it used to be about 60 days otherwise the store/retailer has bought it regardless of if its still on their display shelves. And over a period of time that distributor will just about replace all the other genres except for few titles. They also never pull that genre that gives them such a nice commission.

Problem is the store winds up with merchandise which isn't moving worth a damn.

Personally I think the distributor is a little short sighted as well. They could make just as much if not more money by actually selling more even if its in a different genre.

The retailer could make more money by watching what is due to be returned as well and returning it regardless of the desires of the distributor.

graybyrd

@AmigaClone

Personally I view them as a modern twist on an older concept - Mail Order Catalogues.


As a kid living rural, isolated, Sears, Roebuck was our 'dream book.' Parcel post and PIE freight truck delivered.

Seven decades later it's Amazon. I was tipped to a DVD discounted movie; then found used copy of same, 'like new' from SoCal charity store, via Amazon, several dollars cheaper. Same day, wife wanted steel shelving unit; found it on Amazon, not available locally, free freight, six days. Last week, elder friend wanted box set of DVD 1940's movie musicals, retail $160; found like new used on Amazon, $32. Arrived as advertised, friend delighted. Have coming 33,800 BTU kerosene heater for backyard bunkhouse, $152 w/sales tax, free shipping; not available locally. My Android tablet ($49, Nook) is full of ebooks. Goes anywhere with me; fills all those waiting room hours.

This is the age of the digital catalog. Only way for a brick & mortar store to survive is to fill a unique niche, and offer outstanding customer service.

But that's always been true. It keeps coming around like a wheel. Unless the bookstore offers a unique service, fills a unique demand, its a buggy whip store.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

Sears, Roebuck was our 'dream book.'


Do you know what the most ingenious thing Sears did with their catalogue. They made it smaller than the others. Why? People stack things by size so it was always on the top of the stack on someone's table.

richardshagrin

Smaller size probably made it more convenient to use a toilet paper.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd

@richardshagrin

The worst thing the catalog people ever did was to start using clay-coated slick paper to enhance the illustrations. It was far less absorbent and when folded, those sharp pointy corners hurt like hell! Newspapers (newsprint) were far gentler.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

Newspapers (newsprint) were far gentler.


If you like black fingers and clothing.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

If you like black fingers and clothing.


If you were using newsprint or catalogs for toilet paper, you were probably using an outhouse and at that point, ink stains on fingers and clothing are probably not a major concern.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd

@Dominions Son

I'm a little unclear re: switch's origins, but 'black fingers and clothing' were mostly limited to the few times a year, generally late fall, when I was ordered to 'black' the parlor stove (using a liquid product in a pint bottle called 'Stove Black') and those times, far more frequently, when I was sent under the old family sedan to drain the oil and grease the chassis zerk fittings.

Yes, we had an outhouse, the 'luxury' model with two adjacent oval cutouts in the planed-plank seat.

I think at some time in the dim past I may have mentioned the night that step-dad rolled and lit a cigarette while 'relaxing' in the outhouse, and carelessly flipped the match down the other hole. A summer's accumulation of wadded catalog paper 'down below' caught fire, and ... fortunately, as was normally the case in our parts, the outhouse was well separated from the house and other buildings.

Replies:   REP  Switch Blayde
REP

@graybyrd

Were you one of those young people who went out on Halloween and tipped outhouses over onto their door with someone inside?

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Capt. Zapp

@REP

Were you one of those young people who went out on Halloween and tipped outhouses over onto their door with someone inside?


One of my relatives related that he and his friends used to do that until one year the man moved the outhouse forward about 5 feet.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

I'm a little unclear re: switch's origins, but 'black fingers and clothing'


I simply meant the ink from the newspaper getting on your fingers and clothes.

Replies:   graybyrd
Ernest Bywater

@Capt. Zapp

One of my relatives related that he and his friends used to do that until one year the man moved the outhouse forward about 5 feet.


That puts a whole new dimension on the karma statement about stepping in it.

graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

the ink from the newspaper


Yup. News ink is essentially carbon black dispersed in soybean oil. The ink is absorbed by the porous news print, but as you say, the news ink will rub off on the fingers. It takes a fair amount of handling, over a number of pages, for any appreciable finger-staining to occur. We worked all day printing and handling printed sheets in my newspaper print shop and had little problem. Washes off quite easily.

Then there was the time, late in the day, when we realized our two children (boy, six; girl, four) were too quiet for too long. Found them sitting under the open ink tray of the old flat-bed news press, dipping and "anointing" each other with globs of news ink. That took a fair amount of Stoddard solvent and clean rags to fix.

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