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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Future of Book Stores: It's Still About The Books

"...great books are weighed and measured by their style and matter and not by the trimmings and shadings of their grammer." - Mark Twain, a Biography

Last weekend I had the great opportunity to speak to the Ancient City Writers (a chapter of the Florida Writers Association) in regards to eBooks  and the opportunities this format opens up for them.  There are a great deal of barriers that ebooks breaks down for readers, publishers, and authors alike.  Just a few are:
  1. Readers have access to more titles than ever before and can get them on demand.
  2. The customizable reading experience such as changing text size gives visually challenged readers access to the same titles at the same price.
  3. Publishers are able to reach new readers and the opportunities are wide open to enhance books with things like embedded video and animation in childrens books
  4. Authors can now enjoy new publishing options with lower cost and no distribution barriers thorugh popular new services like Barnes and Noble's Pubit!

As eBooks grow in popularity and become more of a focus as a format, I constantly get the question concerning the future of book stores themselves.  The bottom-line is that book stores will continue to be around for a long time to come.  There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to ebooks that is often getting missed by consumers and industry speculators.
  1. eBooks are simply another format of the book itself.  Just as paperbacks or audio versions are another format.  Both of which when they came out were thought to be the future demise of the industry.  Sound familiar?
  2. eBooks currently comprise less than 10% of the billions spent on books today.  Studies show that at current growth rates, ebooks will most likely meet the demand for print books within the next 5 years.  Amazon's recent announcement that Kindle Books out sold print books with them was pretty much expected.  If you are a mail-order business that offers digital downloads, of course the digital download would exceed your hard-copy mail order business. 
  3. Book stores have been evolving over the last 25 years a great deal (i.e. cafe's, expanded product lines such as gift and accessories, and now digital products such as ereaders).  Companies that embrace change and continue to evolve, will do fine in the years to come.  
In all honesty, it is actually a very exciting time within the industry as ebook popularity to grows.  There are a ton of barriers for readers, book stores, and authors alike when it comes to print books.  eBooks offer great solutions to overcome many of those barriers for all three as mentioned above.
    Book stores are seeing a great deal of change today that is even more exciting.  The print-on-demand publishing model has become more and more popular over the last several years.  This option for authors offers a lower cost option to get their book published but does not guarantee the book would find it's way on to store shelves.  Often times, the book is order only reducing the possibility of sales.  Book Espresso Machines are beginning to pop up in chains and indie book stores throughout the country.  These machines bring the term "print on demand" to a literal sense.  When the customer requests the book, it is printed and bound within minutes for them to purchase.   Again, a much lower cost distribution system for the industry with great benefits for the consumer.

    It's going to be very interesting to see what comes from the book selling and publishing worlds in the next several years.  Just click here to check out some really cool publishing examples for children's digital books.

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