“Book on Shelf” and the Evaporating Dream

If you see a dream...

I had planned to write about villains today.

Instead, I found myself moved to tears by a blog post I read and the comments that followed, and I sat feeling helpless for a moment, blinking back tears, rifling through my memories and wrestling with the itch in my fingers. Because I don’t really want to write this post right now. In fact, it’s the last post I want to write. It’s the one argument I have avoided with religious zeal, trying to stay on the sidelines and keep my blinders on. Trying to keep my eyes on my goal.

Book on shelf.

That’s my goal.

If I don’t want to write this, then why on earth am I doing it? And what, pray tell, am I trying to say?

Book on shelf has been my goal for over a decade. I’d walk through Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton, Montana and picture my book on those shelves. I’d walk through Hastings, or Borders, or Barnes and Nobles, or any number of smaller bookstores I’d encountered.

When I think of Portland, Oregon, setting for parts of my trilogy and where I spent five years of my early life, the first thing that comes to mind is a bookstore. Powell’s Bookstore downtown, a store that takes up an entire city block. This bookstore has color-coded rooms and over a million books. New, used, loved. I used to spend as much time there as my mom would let me. I remember walking through as a teenager when I visited my sister, marveling at how it had still managed to stay so massive when I had grown so much. Again as a college student, combing the shelves for books on World War II Poland.

My life has been a journey from bookstore to bookstore. My development as a writer and as a human being I attribute to the wealth of books that line the shelves in my spare room. When we move, I load them into liquor boxes. When I heft their weight, I have never felt annoyance. I have never thought to get rid of them. They are my prized possessions and part of my identity. I heft their weight and I feel years within, moments of love and loss and epiphany, of learning and and change.

My journey has been from bookstore to bookstore in the hopes that one day, I would journey to one and see my books on shelves, next to authors I value. That I would make a home there in truth. Book on shelf. Book on shelf. Book on shelf. It’s what I tell myself every time I write, every time I strive to be better, to learn more about the markets, to research the agents I want to query. All with that goal in mind.

But what if the shelf dissolved?

What if that shelf simply vanished out from under my future books? Where would I go, if not to a bookstore?

When I walk into a bookstore, I hear the whisper of a million voices. Authors, characters, living, rustling stories.When I walk into a bookstore, I feel tension flee my body in the face of so many words, so much struggle and fighting to arrive there. When I walk into a bookstore, I feel at home.

Between 2000 and 2007, over one thousand bookstores closed.

The Davis-Kidd in Green Hills in Nashville, where I used to walk to spend my lunch break, no longer exists.

We greatly appreciate the support Davis-Kidd Booksellers received from the Nashville and Memphis communities for over 30 years, and are especially thankful for the opportunity to work side by side with such an outstanding group of booksellers.

Borders closed 466 satellite mall stores and 517 full bookstores since 2009 when they went out of business, putting over 10,000 people out of work.

Barnes and Nobles, once-touted as the fanged, black-hatted murder of indie bookstores, now seems to be the last stronghold against a total Amazon digital monopoly.

Barry Eisler, in his address to the Writer’s Digest conference, touted the advent of e-books as the advent of choice for writers. But what about for readers? If the shelves disintegrate under the weight of un-bought books, there will be no choice.

There is never a choice when one company has a monopoly.

What would be ideal is a world where balance existed between physical bookstores and e-books. What’s unfortunate is that economics do not care about balance. Economics don’t care about physics or the properties of evolution or thriving ecosystems where the circle of life exists.

No.

In business, money flows uphill. Money flows toward places where it is already amassed. Why am I talking about money? Because right now, the money flows toward Amazon. The amount of money? About $88 billion.

Money does not flow downhill. It doesn’t respond to the laws of physics unless you put it in a hamster ball and set it on the Continental Divide. I can think of one thing that flows downhill, and it starts with the letter S.

With Barnes and Nobles locked in a fight of survival with the new behemoth of e-books and digital purchasing, this transcends beyond whether you want to self-publish or be traditionally published. Right this moment, you still have a choice.

But if Amazon wins?

If they put Barnes and Nobles out of business? If they topple the remaining physical booksellers and vaporize the shelves across America? Your choice goes away. My choice goes away. And so does my most heartgrown dream.

It’s not inevitable; I don’t believe it’s inevitable.

But at this moment, I feel threatened, like someone has a gun to the head of my most loyal childhood friend and that that person will pull the trigger if it will get them more money.

When I read articles where people flat-out scorn independent bookstores — and bookstores in general — it feels like a punch to the gut. When did physical books become a villain? How on earth did I miss that? When did they become the enemy, something to be destroyed at all cost? How does any reader, whether they read by Nook or by Kindle or iPad or handwritten letters — how does any reader think this is okay?

My question to you, gentle viewers, is this: have we moved into a world where the publishers are the ones in black hats? Have authors grown so utterly frustrated by the gatekeepers that they want to see them gone forever? Have we given up on books? Physical books?

If Amazon becomes the publishing monopoly at the expense of bookstores, I don’t know if I could forgive them.

The question it most pains me to ask is the inevitable follow-up. Did my dream evaporate before I got a chance to fulfill it? If I find an agent this year, if that agent finds me a book deal, in two years when my book comes out — will there be a shelf left to put in on?

Or will I have to look at it on a screen instead of feeling its weight in my hands?

I am a lover of words. I am a writer and a dreamer. I live for the pages, for the stories, for the people who live within them. 

I write this not to alienate those who e-publish, nor do I wish to belittle the dreams of others. What I’ve written feels like naked exposure, and I did not write these words lightly. No. They bear down on me like the pressing of heavy stones upon my shoulders. I invite you to dialogue, to discuss.

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on February 5, 2012, in Sunday My Prints Will Come, writing business and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Great post! I love my Kindle and having access to thousands of books, but there will always be a special place in my heart for bookstores

  2. Great post!! I am with you on this…as much as I love my Nook, I still hope to traditionally publish, to see my book on a shelf in a bookstore. And Barnes & Noble is still, by far my favorite store. I love to walk around, pick up books, read the jackets, talk to others and get suggestions and recommendations. This is something I hope we never lose!

  3. I was totally a Border’s fan, so watching it fold up was particularly upsetting to me. The big issue I see is that Barnes & Nobles distribution chain still relies on an old guard who refuses to innovate. Whatever one wants to say about the long run, Amazon isn’t winning because of anti-competitive practices (Though there’s a few maybes in the game). Amazon is winning because they found the smart way to get content. Where the Big 6 are about finding the one brilliant product, Amazon’s game is getting as many products as possible and making a little off of each of them. The traditional market can play the exact same game. They just won’t.

    Because they won’t, they’re passing along costs that shouldn’t exist on to traditional bookstores and Amazon is taking advantage of that fact. The fact that Barnes & Noble (And now, Books A Million) refuses to carry anything published by Amazon only leads credence to the fact that the old guard doesn’t want to react to the market.

    Obviously, there’s more information to all of these stories, and I pray there’s a lot more to the refusal to carry Amazon published books, because that’s the dumbest move I’ve seen in the whole game so far. Handing your ‘biggest opponent’ a vertical monopoly is asking to lose the long run.

    • I agree — thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      What irks me is that here are these enormous conglomerates that purport to love writing and books of all kinds, but they ensconce themselves into these money-driven battles using the same methods as a toddler might.

      Amazon sending customers into Barnes and Nobles to scan their books and then buy them on Amazon? Dirty. Barnes and Nobles refusing to buy Amazon-published works? Childish.

      Once again, the big leaguers fight over who gets the most money and the content providers will be the ones who suffer.

  4. If this 75-year-old obsessive reader can change with the times, so can you. And you don’t have to feel as if you’re giving up a dream. Books have always been a big part of my life. I thought that if I ever managed to write a novel, getting it published would be the biggest event of my life. And that meant print, of course. By the time I did write a novel, epublishing was just getting to be more than a blip on the horizon. By the time I was ready to publish a novel, I didn’t care about print anymore, because I saw all the wonderful possibilities in being able to do it myself. I just self-published my third novel and I have no interest at all in converting any of them to print. I have no regrets about letting go of the increasingly pointless dream of finding an agent, then a publisher, and hoping for the approval of people whose only concern is the bottom dollar.

    I read more ebooks than print books these days, and have learned that the format is just a shell for the words. It’s the words that count, first, last, and always.

    • I agree with your last statement, unequivocally. However, I believe that readers should always have the choice, whether they want to receive their books in digital format or in physical format.

      I think enough people still want to read traditionally published books that it isn’t necessary to eliminate that industry — writers should (and do) have the choice of how to publish, and readers should have the choice of how they want to obtain and read their books. That is what I perceive as the threat. What upsets me is Amazon’s tactics and their approach to their competition. Competition is healthy. I want the choice not to publish through Amazon and the choice to see my books on shelves. I know it’s not easy and that it takes time — and that my ability to do so is in the hands of agents and gatekeepers. For me, that is fine, and I have that right. For now.

      What I resist is not the advent of e-books. It is the removal of publishing options and buyer’s choice. If Amazon achieves a vertical monopoly, it will mean just that.

      • I also have a strong dislike of Amazon’s tactics and would hate to see it monopolize the entire book business. As a writer, though, I have to acknowledge that part of my sales will have to come from Amazon. I publish first on Smashwords, and have just placed my first novel on Amazon. (Yes, it’s still on Smashwords and always will be.) I’ll release each of my books and shorter works on Amazon only after giving them several months on Smashwords. It’s a compromise, but one I’m fairly comfortable with.

        As for choice, how much choice is there when a book is published in hardcover only? If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to buy it in paperback a year later. If you’re not, you’ll have to pay the price or wait until used copies are on the market. If I ever have a readership that demands my books in print (not likely to happen), then I’ll think about POD editions, but not before.

        My prediction is that most people will eventually accept ebooks along with print. Then the question of choice won’t be an issue. If the book is there to be read, those who want to read it will read it in whatever format is available.

      • I agree — ultimately, people will adjust to the changing market, and hopefully some of the heels will cool a bit after all the tromping around of the big leaguers.

        I have never minded hardcovers. I know they’re more expensive, but when it’s an author I love, I don’t even hesitate to buy them if paperback isn’t available.

  5. There are choices to be made, and Borders took one way out. Barnes and Noble is trying to adapt in a changing market. Will they be successful depends on their management. I may be optimistic but I believe there will always be room for a real book store with real books on a shelf. I love my Kindle, but it hasn’t stopped me from buying physical books. If I love a book on my Kindle, then I often buy it in physical book form as well. Keep the faith.

  6. I wish I could find the link again, but a few months ago I read an article online about a slight resurgence in the numbers of independent booksellers. It was modest, it was probably only in the biggest cities, but it was there.

    I don’t think we’ll ever see as many “brick and mortar” booksellers again. But I don’t think they’ll disappear completely, at least not until our culture changes beyond recognition.

    E-readers have their day in the sun. But so did VHS when it outcompeted Beta. Who has videotapes anymore? I can’t even imagine how we might be reading in 10 years. Like you, I want that traditional print book. Yet I’m also thankful that people still choose to read, even if it’s through a cyberspace connection.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. I care about people reading. That is the main issue, and like I said in my post, it doesn’t matter to me how they do it.

      What I hope for is that we will still have the choice of who to buy from and how to read our books. I abhor monopolies, especially when they dictate forced change.

  7. It seems to me, as the Big Bookstores Disappear, the Small Independent Book Stores are now Finding a Stronger Footing… And we may even see some more open, or at lest the ones that are left will get stronger… Because, Frankly, there are Readers out there… And when I say Readers, I mean Readers that like to hold a Book in their hands.

    Not that people who read Digital Books aren’t Reader, I just know that there are People that Like to Hold The Book in their hands… And to Smell the Musty Air of a Used Book Store… Hell, even the Fresh Print Smell in a Book Store that carries New Books is a good Scent at this point.

    Here’s the Point, and I could definitely be wrong, but I believe Small Independent Books Stores have gone from “That Book Store on the Corner”, to “Barely Surviving” with the Coming of Crown Books, Barnes and Noble Etc…. To their Potential Future/Current Place which may well be, “A Niche Market”… In other words, Independent Book Stores are Now a Niche Market… Which isn’t all that bad if you think about it…

    Sure, you wont find one on every Corner anymore, but, you may find a few Real Good one’s in Every City.

    Keep in Mind, you’re New Dream may be… To Own Your Own Little Book Store, which you can also Put your Books in… After All, there’s a Hell of Lot more than you out there that Feel The Same… I’m about 95% Writer, and 5% Reader, but I still feel the same as you do… I Love Book Stores, always have…

    Don’t be afraid… It’s just the Relentlessness of Cultural Evolution Rearing its Ugly Head.

    And as Hamlet says

    “Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them”

    Kick This… Beat This… Evolve… Find The Niche… Fight… Use The Death of One thing, to Fuel The Life of the Next… Ad

    The Death of One Dream, is the Birth of Three Dreams… I am a Dreamer as well, Always Have been, Always Have been… And every time I’ve been Knocked Down, I’ve gotten back up… Stronger… Smarter… More Driven, and Passionate that the time before

    First Dream – To be A Professional Baseball Player – (Never Told My Mom, because I knew she was a Single Mom, and couldn’t get me to Practices)

    Second Dream – To be a Film Maker – (Got a Short Film in a Film Festival in New York)

    Third Dream – To be a Writer – (Truth is, I’ve always been a Writer… And I always will be)

    Nuff Said, sorry for the Huge Reply, but you’re a Hell of a Writer, and thus pulled me into the Battle with you

    Good Luck… And… Kick A$$!!

    DarkJade-

  8. Emmie, you raise a really disturbing point. I can’t imagine a world without book stores and physical pages turning beneath the finger tip. But from a business standpoint, I don’t know how B&N can compete with Amazon from a cost perspective. It’s disappointing to the dream of seeing my book in print.

    I think the market has to find some balance where e-readers and paper books coexist. But I’m not sure if it will be with online distribution or an actual store we can walk into. Sigh.

    • Yeah, it’s the business that worries me. Business is rarely about the good of the consumers, no matter what they say. Business is for profit, and profit often dictates things that are bad for consumers.

  9. I think that as long as there are people who want physical books, there will be physical books…and stores to sell them. I suspect that the “balance” (between ebook and real books) you mentioned is exactly where the market is headed. The only question is, how long until the turmoil reaches a stable point, and what percentage of each format will the market support?

    I’m with you, though, in that I recently finished a novel and can’t bear to think of publishing it only in an electronic format. I want my mom to see on bookshelves in stores; I want her to have her own physical copy, so I can write her a special note on the blank inside cover.

    • Agreed. As much as I love the flow of information and content over 1s and 0s (which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do — I’m a blogger), there’s still a power in pens and paper that can’t be touched or diluted by the fluctuating markets.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and for subscribing!

      I think the market will do a few pendulum swings before finding that balance. Right now it’s surging toward e-books, but I also think there will be some backlash if Barnes and Nobles ends up in a financial hotpot and has to think about closing and if bookstores begin to close in larger numbers in general. If that happens, I think there will be a LOT of people who rally around traditional publishing.

      What I hate, and what disturbs me so much, is to think of writers and readers drawing lines to separate themselves from one another. I’ve heard some authors labeled as “trad pub flunkies” and other derogatory names meant to imply that the legacy publishers are all scam artists and cartels and that authors who support them are backward mouthpieces of a corrupt system, and that disgusts me. The Six Sisters are BIG businesses, but they are, at the end of the day, run by book lovers. Amazon is also a BIG business. It may seem to be championing the underdog right now, but you can bet your buttons that their motives aren’t entirely magnanimous or geared toward the well-being of the content providers and consumers any more than the motives of the Six Sisters when it comes to business. Their goal is profit. Right now that goal fits with the goals of a lot of indie content providers, but things can change very rapidly in the business world. Very rapidly.

      I think writers and readers should all be on the same team — along with the people who sell them, publish them, and market them. At the end of the day, we all have a love of books and words in common, and that is a powerful, powerful thread to bind us.

      • That’s perfectly said. I believe that everyone wants good stories, told well, whether on paper, as electrons, or told around a fire. As long as we share that, I have a hard time imagining any option disappearing. 🙂

  10. I enjoyed today’s post very much. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I think Amazon has given readers more choice, not less. Like you, I love bookstores. For my birthday, I go to a bookstore for several hours by myself (since I have three little kids, that’s a big deal!). I want to buy books from those stores and support their presence in my community.

    But.

    They don’t have the books I want. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a bookstore with a list of titles in my hand, only to find that they carry none of them–and these aren’t old books, either. Or how frustrating it is to want to read the next book of a series, only to find they only carry books #2, 4 and 5, not #1 or #3. Oh sure, they’d be happy to order the book for me, if only I can drive the half-hour to come pick it up in a week or so. Or I could just order the book from Amazon at home and have it delivered to my door in two days.

    Hands down, Amazon makes book-buying more convenient. Any book I can get in a bookstore, I can get on Amazon. Not to mention that the world of e-book-only or self-pubbed novels is now open to me.

    Do I think Amazon will become an outright monopoly, with the absolute power to decide what books get out to the general reader? No, I don’t. Not with at the Internet the way it is. There will always be lean, hungry, innovative start-ups waiting to grab a share of the Amazon pie. Amazon had better be wary.

    I got a Kindle over a year ago, and I haven’t stopped buying print books. This is all anecdotal, but a lot of e-reader owners say that now they read more books–and buy more books (print and electronic) all around. I don’t think print is dead and I hope that both of us will see our books on a physical bookstore shelf someday soon!

    • Definitely!

      I still don’t own an e-reader and probably won’t until forced, but I’m not against them in any way for those who love them. I’m just happy that people are reading, whatever medium they choose as a vehicle for their words. I usually have two or so books with me, and that doesn’t bother me. 🙂

      I’ve had a hard time finding books sometimes, but most of the time if I can’t find what I want, I end up with something new or interesting when I ask an associate. I had a woman at Barnes and Nobles turn me onto three different fantasy series in November, and I have a big stack of books waiting for my attention. I like that — it’s heartening to me. Regardless of what the big leaguers say or do, people still love stories and books, and they want to make sure they have access to them.

  12. I have a Nook, but I still prefer physical books. I mainly use my Nook for certain series and books that are too heavy to lug around. I hope to God that physical books don’t disappear.

  13. Great post. I adore bookstores and am a HUGE fan of Powell’s (though it’s probably a good thing for my already sagging bookshelves that it is two hours away from where I live). I truly hope bookstores (chain or independent) make it through this latest storm. I would be crushed if they all went the way of Border’s. I think you’ll get that book on the shelf – there are too many of us lovers of books in print to let them all slip away.

    • I hope so too. Powell’s is one of those places that I would truly mourn if it passed away. I am going to Seattle for a workshop in the fall, and I really want to try and make it to Portland to see my sister and herd of children — and take them to Powell’s. If they don’t wanna go, I’ll spend a day there by myself.

  14. Wonderful, well-composed post, Emmie, on a topic that should be at the height of concern for writers, for readers, and all purveyors of the literary. Are e-books the future? Yes, but bloody hell it should be a future laid ON TOP OF the firm basis of the shelf book–that beautiful wonder that is the paper copy. I buy e-books, I published in e-book, and I use that to supplement my traditional copy readings…those books I love so much I must be able to hold them in my hands. Being told a paper copy of my own book would sit atop a Schuler’s bookshelf? One of the most warming moments of my life. It is a horror to see how things have developed though. The publishers are dooming themselves with their entrenched thinking, but the bookstores, the little guys and the chains both…it is a horror to think all those staples of this art could soon go by the wayside. Amazon has done good things, I have to say, but to let them be the only route? The only path for reading, for publishing, for the whole literary scene? That is not good, no matter the company or the business…

    • Thanks, Chris. From the tone of your post, you find the whole idea as distressing as I do. I read a bunch of articles yesterday, which spurred that post — I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get really worked up about it. Not even just for the prospect of bookstores disappearing before my books land in them, but just not being able to go to one. Not being able to walk into a bookstore and see shelves and shelves and shelves of books everywhere or chat with the booksellers about what they love and what I should read next in person. Again it’s an instance of face to face interaction being given over to screens, and I can’t get behind that however much I love the fact that these comments have come from all over the country and the world. I would still rather sit down with you all in a cozy corner of a bookstore and drink some tea and talk about life and writing.

      We use the screens to someday interact face to face, not the other way around. I feel the same way about books. I buy online when I’m super busy and have no time to get to a bookstore, but I still infinitely prefer to go get them myself.

  15. I agree with those who say that while right now bookstores are having it tough, there’ll always be people who love books and places for them to buy books. The stores may be smaller and oriented towards niche markets, but they’ll be there. In a multiple choice test, the answers with ‘always’ and ‘never’ in them are the wrong ones. Reality usually makes its way down the middle.
    Thanks for such a thoughtful- and though provoking – post.

  16. I love buying physical books. I love the smell, the feel, the weight of the book in my hands. Recently, I bought the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice with these beautiful gold-gilded pages, silver binding, and a red iron-wrought design all over the front. Plus, I have Wicked, also in gold-gilded pages, black binding, and an emerald green design of the clock tower from the book on the front. I love these books. I love rubbing my hands all over them like my naked boyfriend!

    However, after purchasing my Kindle, I realized I could read SO much better in bed. I didn’t have to use both hands to force open a book to keep open, or try to turn the book the right way towards the light to see the words, and I don’t worry about ruining the binding anymore. I read faster; I remember the stories better; I enjoy reading in bed (the only time I can truly read most days).

    My dream was to publish a novel. With the invention of self-publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing, I realized I could make my dreams come true without fighting off all the other writers to find an agent. I didn’t have to hear rejection that my idea was too “modern” or “retro” depending on who you asked. I could write for the sake of writing and put it out there for people to read.

    If it weren’t for Boyfriend, I wouldn’t attempt trying to shop around my novels to an agent. Then again, this push helped me want to make my writing better. I am excited. I have this infectious yearning to do better with my time and effort when it comes to writing.

    Yes, I agree that readers should have options, but I am also open to finding everything I need in one place. Amazon isn’t necessarily the cheapest. However, we have school bookstores, libraries, and many other places to find books. One of my favorite things to do is give a great book to someone else. I pass on my adventures, hoping the other person enjoys the book as much as I did.

    Your dreams can still come true. It’ll be on the bookshelf, but it might be an electronic bookshelf.

    *hugs*

  17. No worries. For as many people who enjoy Kindles, Nooks and other eReaders, there are just as many who love physical books. And yes, there will be shelves for your book, regardless of changes in the publishing industry.

  18. I believe we are at the tail end of the physical bookstore. If we really want to see our work on a shelf then we need to get it out there quickly. You might be interested in reading this post by Patricia Sands about the loss of her local bookstore as an author who saw her work sitting on the shelf and as a reader who enjoyed shopping there: http://patriciasands.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/life-the-bitter-and-the-sweet/.

  19. What concerns me is that, in response to Amazon’s looming monopoly, the push is uniformly towards B&N: another chain that would like to monopolize the market. With ebooks, this is a choice between two locked, proprietary, mutually incompatible formats. Buy a Kindle and chain yourself to Amazon, or buy a Nook and pin your hopes on B&N. You’d better hope you guess right…

    I don’t like either option.

    I own a Kobo, which handles bog-standard EPUB files with or without Adobe DRM…and it’s frustrating how little support that choice gets. I can’t buy Kindle or Nook ebooks for it; they won’t work. I can buy ebooks from Books-A-Million, as long as I use the same email address I use at KoboBooks; both stores use Adobe DRM, meaning the most I have to do is download the book, copy it to a microSD card, and start reading. That’s a little bit of a hassle sometimes, but at least I’m not locked into one retailer. I can use Smashwords, too, or any other e-store that deals in standard formats.

    The frustrating part is simply how many books are unavailable that way. The trend I see is for ebooks to hit Amazon, then B&N, then…stop. Publisher promotions do the same thing; an ebook goes on sale on one of the Big Two, the other store matches it, and no other e-store seems to know or care.

    It seems nuts to me that so many people are complaining about The Death Of Independent Bookstores on one hand, yet so many e-publishers are leaving money on the table by not letting independent or standards-based *e-stores* sell their works. It’s almost as if they *want* to encourage piracy.

    (To anticipate an objection: I’m perfectly well aware of the fact that at its core, a Nook file is just an EPUB. The devil, though, is in the details; a Nook file is locked once with Adobe DRM and again with B&N’s proprietary DRM – which locks it into the Nook platform and prevents me from using it on my Kobo. Believe me, I’ve tried. The only solution would be for me to break the law and remove the B&N encryption…and I’m sorry, but no book is worth the risk of jail time. My question is, if you’re going to sell through B&N, why not take the extra step and sell that already-prepared EPUB through Kobo, BAM, and other compatible stores?)

    • I know absolutely nothing about the various e-reader file types (well, a teensy bit now!), but I can imagine that would be very, very frustrating to not be able to access certain books because of the file type. I think what could feasibly happen in the future is for e-publishers to standardize file types at the behest of reader demand, but I don’t know.

      I think that the surge toward Barnes and Nobles is, in a way, under the mindset that if they fall, the independent bookstores will crash behind them. While I don’t necessarily agree with that (an argument could be made that it might cause a resurgence in those very bookstores by eliminating their largest physical competition), I can sort of see the reasoning.

      I just don’t want to see bookstores vanish. They’re too entrenched in my memories, my lifestyle, and my habits.

  20. Hi Emmie. I’m a book in my hands, turn the paper pages kind of girl. I don’t want to read a book on a screen. It isn’t a movie. It’s a book. There’s a difference. The longer the book, the heavier it should feel in your hands or on your lap. I don’t want to turn the pages any other way than between thumb and forefinger. I want to feel the breeze from the pages and make coffee stains and use an old picture as a bookmark. I want the intimacy that a real book brings. I don’t want cold metal in my hands or letters lit up from behind. Stories are one of the most natural parts of us and our lives. I can’t help but feel that they belong on recycled paper, in stores where employees know and love them. And no book could be more at home than in a great musty library. Thanks for posting. I hope you see your book on one of those shelves very soon 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment!

      I’m with you a hundred percent on that one. I would be heartbroken if bookstores were to close, and I have a hard time reading on screens as well. I tried to read on a friend’s Kindle, and it just wasn’t for me. I hope there are enough of us to ensure the future of our favored medium.

  21. The majority of people I know prefer physical books to ebooks and I’m the same. I don’t see the physical book ever disappearing entirely but unfortunately small bookstores can’t compete with the low prices of bigger chains. I don’t know how this problem will ever be solved. In this economy people are thrifty with any spare cash they have.

    • Yeah. I often make choices to spend more and support something I care about — or to sacrifice the convenience of online shopping in favor of getting my arse off the couch and into a physical store just to support those ventures — but I know I’m a bit of a minority on that count. Most people want quick, cheap, and easy all the time.

  22. Emmie, this is such a difficult subject to sort through for me. My local bookstore closed last month after 46 years of devoted, informed, personal service. It was a thrill for me to see my novel front and centre in that shop and to receive the enthusiastic support of the staff. My hope is that the huge bookstores will close and small indies will somehow manage to recover a foothold in our neighbourhoods. I have to admit I am a Kindle convert but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the pleasure of print books. However, as one of your commenters said, it’s the words that matter and that’s what get whether in print or e-book. Words. Those will never disappear.

  23. So many comments on this thread! Definitely a deeply felt issue.

    I had my crisis of faith about the benefits of pure digital publishing, vs. the bone-need to have a physical book in my hand, smell the pages full of my words. So, I feel you.

    For now my plan is to compromise — do a limited run of print versions through lulu.com [sort of an ARC], then focus on digital distribution through Amazon’s Kindle platform.

    I know, I know — Amazon=evil…but from my knowledge, traditional publishing weren’t a group of white hats. And plus — my mom has a Kindle, and she’s the main one I’m worried about reading my stuff.

    And at the end of the day — your words in someone else’s head — isn’t that more important than a book on a shelf?

    • For the record, I don’t think Amazon is evil, but I also don’t think traditional publishers are evil and hell-bent on destroying authors’ livelihoods by refusing to pay them. I also don’t think the lines should be drawn to pit writers and readers against one another on the basis of differing platforms and opinions about the future of publishing.

      A book on a shelf — rather my book on someone’s shelf, or my book on a bookstore shelf — is a deep symbol with me. It’s like my version of a gold medal or a Superbowl ring. The goal is to write for readers, but I’d be telling a whopper of a lie if I said that symbol doesn’t matter, or even that it’s mutable. There’s a lot that comes with having a book on a shelf, and while I know it doesn’t matter to as many people anymore, I do write with the intention of achieving the approbation of a traditional publisher and agents by proxy. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those people. I haven’t yet experienced a lot of rejection, and I know it’s coming, but at the same time I’m not too fazed by it. When it happens, I will do what I can to always make my work better to try and achieve my goal. I believe that there are a myriad of reasons for rejection by traditional publishing, and 99% of them are not personal. For me, this is what makes sense, and I respect the decisions of others to take a different route. But my goal is valid for me, so I will still work toward having a book on shelves.

  24. You are amazing. I love this. I need that smell in my house. Actually, I just need to decorate my house with books. What would I do without them? I don’t even want to think about it. I need the romance.

  25. Here’s another thumb’s up on your post. It hadn’t occurred to me that when I finally get a book out I may not have a physical product to hold or there may not be a shelf and a store to hold it. How sad. On a side note, I was in Nashville for the final weekend of Davis-Kidd. So sad. I always loved that store. I believe writer Ann Pachett opened up a bookstore somewhere Vanderbilt recently.

    • I went to a phenomenal little writer meeting there after a book signing, followed by a reception at the publicist’s house. It was a great situation that I wish I had known how to maximize — or at least known enough to get the business cards of the people I met. I loved that bookstore, and I am so sad that it’s gone away.

  26. My heart has been broken by all the bookstore closings. I love bookstores. Like you said, I feel at home there. I too have imagined my books on the shelves. I’ve seen myself in the stores doing book signings and talking with readers. I don’t want that dream to go away either. I think if one company has the monopoly then we all lose. Writes, readers sellers and publishers. Healthy competition is good for us. I applaud B8N taking a stand, but I disagree with the way they’re doing it. I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. I know I can order the print form of my book once published, but it’s not the same as actually walking in and seeing it on the shelves and seeing others pick it up and open the cover. Very insightful post, Emmie.

  27. Change is painful, Emmie, but new authors growing up with digital ebooks will yearn for their books on the screen, not shelves. It’s OK. Maybe creative booksellers could put an image of the book (like Blockbuster does with videos) where you put your money in and download the book to your reader. I think we’ll get used to it.

    I got used to computers instead of pen and paper.

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