Lately it occurred to me that perhaps we are coming full circle in the bookselling world. Yes, a huge amount of business is being done over the internet these days, but I feel that changes are coming that may bode well for booksellers and book buyers.
Kindles and other electronic gadgets for storing hundreds of books in one small electronic tablet, or a library stored on the “cloud” will continue to be popular. But, I spend many of my days staring at a computer screen, and in the evening the last thing I want to do is try to relax with yet another computer screen. Also, I think that some readers are discovering or re-discovering that there is nothing like the feel of a book in your hand. It’s solid and permanent feeling. You can take a book anywhere; you don’t even need to remember to pack the battery charger or worry about losing access to your entire electronic library.
Another problem with the electronic media is consistency. A lot of effort goes into producing a physical book. The author has spent the time to write an engaging story or has spent many hours researching information to use in their book. The problem with electronic media is that it is so easy to produce and publish, like this opinion article. It is here today, gone tomorrow. Also, since it is more permanent; so many steps are involved and so much work goes into producing a book, authors and publishers put a lot of effort into getting it right the first time.
There is one other change that I believe is on the horizon. Shipping costs for books have skyrocketed – even for the mass market paperback you might buy to read at the beach. The relatively inexpensive media mail option is regularly becoming more costly, causing internet booksellers to raise their prices in order to make an ever-smaller profit. And the selling fees for the major internet marketplaces keep going up as well. The change that I see coming here is the resurrection of the local brick-and-mortar bookshop, where you can go browse and interact with other readers. And buy your books at a reasonable price, without having to pay extra for postage and selling fees.
Time will tell about whether real neighborhood bookstores will rise again.