Two items in this mornings Shelf Awareness newsletter join a long and continuous list of proclamations from people who claim they love bound paper books:
National Book Award judge Sallie Tisdale, writing for The Oregonian, lyricizes on the tactile qualities (smell, weight, feel, and so on) of paper books as opposed to ereaders.
The Encino Patch reports that “hundreds of people” turned out to protest the closing of Encino’s Barnes & Noble and the installation of a new pharmacy in its building.
Every time I see another person proclaim the wonder of paper books, often saying something along the lines of, “you’ll pry my paper books out of my cold dead hands,” I have one response.
Admirable sentiments! Good for you! I love paper books, too! So…
Why aren’t you buying them????
According to the monthly sales reports released by the AAP, paper book sales are dropping steadily, while ebook sales are increasing at geometric rates. As a book award judge, Sallie Tisdale gets all the books she could possibly read free of charge. Would she be so enthusiastic if she had to pay for them all? And all those protesters in Encino: it’s a sure bet that none of them were visiting their beloved Barnes & Noble and buying things regularly. If every one of those protesters had gone in and bought a book every week, that Barnes & Noble would still be open. All you customers of struggling little independent stores who “boycott Amazon” and say you’ll never own a Kindle–how often do you go to your favorite bookstore and actually give them some money? Based on sales, the answer is obvious.
I see this effect at By Light Unseen Media. Two years ago, our paperback editions sold respectably on Amazon.com. Now, paper book sales on Amazon are pathetic, but our Kindle editions are selling like mad. Ebooks now form the bulk of our profits, and I’m not doing a thing to encourage that. I’m not marketing ebooks more heavily than print books. But paper books simply aren’t selling. Readers are buying ebooks–and just like I say here, it’s all about the readers.
It’s not rocket science, book lovers! If you don’t want paper books to disappear, you have to buy them. They’re getting more and more expensive to produce, and publishers have to pay their authors and eat occasionally. We’re going to respond to the readers who support us, as much as we may sympathize with the fervent lovers of paper books who never buy.
If you don’t buy paper books, they’re going to go away. That’s simple economics.