What Price Bookshops?
There has been a lot of discussion about the future of print books. I have been posting recently about Waterstones' new events policy which threatens to further undermine struggling sales. Waterstones are right to host more high profile celebrity ticketed evening events. They should be doing all they can to create more of a buzz about bookshops. But it is authors who are happy to spend time in bookshops who make a difference to sales figures. Customers buy books by celebrities and a few big names regardless of events in the stores. Inviting such authors into bookshops won't increase sales in the store. Many readers will bring books for signing with them - often books they have bought online.
There will be more discussion about Waterstones' new deal to sell kindles in their stores. Amazon report that sales of ebooks (excluding free downloads) already outstrip their online sales of print books 114 to 100. It took 4 years for this to happen in the US. In the UK it has taken 2 years for sales of e-books to overtake sales of print books.
My own books sell far more lucratively as e-books than print books. Am I clinging to a bygone era in my passion to support physical bookshops? Do they matter to modern culture?
Waterstones is no longer financially self-supporting, our only remaining chain of bookshops surviving thanks to Russian billionaire Mamut.
Perhaps there's nothing wrong with that. After all, Shakespeare needed his patron. But it's a sobering thought that the whole of Waterstones was bailed out for £53 million - far less than some clubs pay for their top footballers.