Thanks to JFerg for the link to this op ed piece in Sunday’s New York Times. Staff writer, David Streitfield, argues that used bookstores are primarily responsible for the declining publishing industry. In other words, the sky is falling because of the secondary market.
Don’t blame this carnage on the recession or any of the usual suspects, including increased competition for the reader’s time or diminished attention spans. What’s undermining the book industry is not the absence of casual readers but the changing habits of devoted readers….In other words, it’s all the fault of people like myself, who increasingly use the Internet both to buy books and later, after their value to us is gone, sell them.
One owner of an independent bookstore chain calls this “tragic.” Another bookstore owner told the writer that by buying a used book, he “was taking Ms. Lesser’s work while depriving her of an income, and that [he] would regret [his] selfish actions when all the physical stores were gone.”
The author herself viewed the resale optimistically saying she gained a reader.
The idea that the internet UBS is killing the publishing industry is a balm to publishers who have run their business into the ground by using outmoded business practices, allowing retailers to force the burden of the sale onto the publishers shoulders, by paying out enormous advances on books that were never going to earn out, by not paying attention to the quality of the product being put out (i.e., underpaying the editing and copy editing staff). If all of publishing thinks that its decline is due to external factors, there won’t be a revolution. It’s time for publishing to re-invent itself. As Huffington Post book blogger wrote the other day, it’s “exciting times.”