If you don’t know who Ted Bundy is, he was an infamous serial killer that killed 30 women in the 1970s. Could technology; more accurately,ebooks, kill off printed books like Ted Bundy? Frankly, it’s beginning to concern me. Not so much that it’s going to completely kill off printed books but that overall sales of books (both new and used) have already started to spiral down. I know that niches like rare and collectible books will be only slightly affected due to their nature but commodity books like I sell will soon go to the way of the dinosaur. Even I, a used bookseller, has an iPad sitting right beside me with the Amazon Kindle app on it. Why? Because it’s so damn convenient! I know, I know, you’re going to call me a sell out but I’m sorry! I just love technology too much!
This is a topic I’ve been stewing on for a long time. Being a big technology guy way before I was a book guy, I was well aware of eBooks but didn’t think about the impact they had on my book business. To be honest, I’m doing just fine while Amazon can claim they sell more eBook than hardcover books all they want. Perhaps I’m just too small of a seller to notice the global trends right away. Perhaps. Perhaps the books I’m selling attract the kind of people that still like good ol’ paper. Who knows? In any case, I still believe selling used books still is a good way to make a business.
Even though Amazon is and always has been the biggest source of sales for me, they seem to be attempting to leave me. Amazon has recently announced it’s plans to start a digital library. Publishers, as well as sellers like me hate the idea for obvious reasons. It is surely going to affect sales in a very negative way. Amazon got it’s roots with books and it has always been known as a very technologically advanced company automating many processes and streamlining workflows. Instead of fulfilling book orders from people like you and me, I’m pretty sure they’d rather just be throwing up a server and opening the gates for people to download at will. No labor costs, much less equipment and less time equal much more profit at the end of the year. The must be doing something right and planning for something big if they’re able to report sales of a whopping $9.86 billion for the quarter but profited way less. Costs in developing the Kindle or this so-called digital library, perhaps? Amazon…I understand why you’re doing it but I don’t like it one bit.
Also, don’t even get me started on Google’s eBook adventures. They recently opened up an entire eBook store while at the same time attempted to scan hundreds of thousands of books called the Google Books Library Project. OK, it’s Google. I get get that. They’re a technology company to begin with. I understand why they’d want to get people reading eBooks instead of print books. Do you think they might have their ear to the ground and hear what’s coming before we do and try to get in a position to take advantage of that?
I’m also pretty sure you heard about Borders going bankrupt. However, did you know that you can still browse to Borders.com? Borders couldn’t hack it in the print world but decided to go all in with eBooks and online-only distribution. Why pay a few thousand employees when you can have a datacenter somewhere with a few hundred servers and a dozen IT geeks to run it?
I’m at a loss here. Personally, I’m torn between being a huge fan of anything tech to seeing my book business sales potentially dwindling. You can’t resell eBooks, right? For all you other booksellers out there, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section. Concerned? Have a strategic plan to counteract eBooks or do you just not think this is going to be something that can hold up?
This post has been a quick writeup and may have some errors and/or not flow as gracefully as some of my past posts. I’ve been drastically slowing down my post-writing mostly because they take way too damn long to write and edit for clarity. I’ve decided rather than give you guys nothing I’ll at least write about what’s on my mind and get flamed for the errors so please, be gentle.