The writing is on the wall, ebooks will become a large part of the book publishing industry. I don’t think it will replace books completely, but I think in the next few years, more people will read ebooks than print books (if it dosen’t happen already). I look at the music industry as evidence. You can hardly find CDs anymore. The majority of music sold are mp3s/mp4s. Soon, CDs will only be available at vintage stores.
However, it is not good that there are only a few sources for ebooks. The major stores such as Amazon, B&N, Google and the iBookstore are the only mainstream places I can think of where you can download ebooks. Well, there is kobo, smashwords, and Borders (for now).
The publishing industry is important to the US economy. It not only sustains writers, but printers and editors as well as independent book stores. Many people make their living from the manufacture and sale of books. To level the industry and depend on six (6) merchants is not only bad for the economy but it is bad for the consumer. With only a few large (private) companies in essense “controlling” information and art how do we guard against censorship? What happens if Amazon gets a new CEO and they have an issue with vampires and decides, they won’t sell any book that has anything to do with vampires.
There have already been instances where amazon removed books from their customers Kindle. Or when amazon removed all the books of a publisher because they were in a dispute. If you bought a book, Barnes & Noble could not send a representative to your home and take the book back from you. If Barnes & Noble had a dispute with a publisher, it did not have the ability to with, just a click, be able to remove all books from said publisher from it’s stores.
Many things are changing in Publishing as we speak. The future is yet to be decided. Most people are thinking about how self-publishing is going to affect the Publishing industry, I think people should also think about what will happen with the access to ebooks. How can the small business owner get “in” on the industry? How can we save the small bookstores around the country that is not only a place to buy books, but it’s a place for socializing, discovering books and friends and can be a gathering place for communities.
Maybe independent bookstores should embrace the ereader. Maybe small bookstores should start selling ereaders at their locations. Develop an infrastructure that books can be bought from them instead of Amazon etc, and make it worth while for customers to buy from them through discounts and/or loyalty programs. Independent bookstore owners should not take this laying down but figure out a way to innovate and become relevant.
With so many ebooks available and the access to publishing books easier than before, readers, more than ever need reliable sources to recommend great books. The independent bookstore can be a part of the answer.
The Independent bookstore is not irrelevant unless it makes itself so.