The Death of Bookstores

by Lisa Rosen on August 10, 2011

Speaking of all those books we got rid of over the weekend . . .

One of my writer’s groups meets at the local Barnes & Noble, so I have regular occasion to watch the goings-on at the store.

They, too, are getting rid of the books.  No joke.  Over the course of this summer, that store has removed at least six shelves (by my count), and have cut the general fiction section by at least a quarter.  The Nook (e-reader) sales area has expanded, as have the board games and junk-mess-and-stuff sections.  But the books are going away.

If you’re a reader, or a writer, that ought to blow your mind.  An industry is dying, right before our eyes.

Just to be clear, I mean the book printing industry.  More people than ever are writing.  It’s just that the path that material takes, to get from the writer’s brain to the reader’s eyes, is completely different now than it was just a few years ago.

For readers, that means we have to figure out new ways to decide what we’re going to read.  Wandering through the bookstore, picking up novels that happend to be prominently displayed?  That’s hard to do when the bookstore is full of Rubik’s cubes and keychains.

For writers, it means we have to figure out new ways of getting readers’ attention.  The [agent –> publisher –> publicist –> bookstore display –> reader ] equation is disintegrating.  Frankly, as a first-time novelist, I’m completely panicked.  It’s all I can do not to run my manuscript through the shredder and go get a job teaching English to line cooks and gardeners.

I try not to despair.  Lee keeps trying to convince me to just publish it myself (and I may yet, when I finish this revision, which will be soon).  I believe in my story.  I just can’t quite figure out how to get it in the hands of readers.

And I wonder why it took me two hours to fall asleep last night?

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