Twelve years later, it may be Joe Fox’s turn to worry. Readers have gone from skipping small bookstores to wondering if they need bookstores at all. More people are ordering books online or plucking them from the best-seller bin at Wal-Mart.
But the threat that has the industry and some readers the most rattled is the growth of e-books. In the first five months of 2009, e-books made up 2.9 percent of trade book sales. In the same period in 2010, sales of e-books, which generally cost less than hardcover books, grew to 8.5 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers, spurred by sales of the Amazon Kindle and the new Apple iPad. For Barnes & Noble, long the largest and most powerful bookstore chain in the country, the new competition has led to declining profits and store traffic. After the company announced last week that it was putting itself up for sale, Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble’s chairman and largest shareholder, who has declared his confidence in the company’s future, hinted that he might make a play to buy the company himself and take it private.
For readers, e-books have meant a transformation not just of the reading experience, but of the book-buying tradition of strolling aisles, perusing covers and being able to hold books in their hands. Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital.
“The shift from the physical to the digital book can pick up some of the economic slack, but it can’t pick up the loss that is created when you don’t have the customers browsing the displays,” said Laurence J. Kirshbaum, a literary agent. “We need people going into stores and seeing a book they didn’t know existed and buying it.”
Read more http://alturl.com/b33s3