25 May 2011

Times they are a changin'

You probably know by now that it is a rare weekend where I don't see the inside of a bookstore or three. My very favourite is a new-to-me secondhand store, and I've have often gloated about my hard-to-find discoveries from a little out of the way treasure somewhere. Readings and other indy bookstores are my next favourites, but hey...we book addicts can't be too choosy - I'm quite happy in Borders as well. Actually, more than quite happy, but you get the idea. I lurve bookstores.

Which is why I was really sad back in February to hear that Borders were in trouble. Geelong's Borders survived the first round of store closures back then, although the Angus and Robinson store in the same complex wasn't so lucky. I was sorry about that, but the Borders was bigger, and I could still get my fix and so life was still okay. You can imagine my horror a couple of weeks ago, then, when I wandered into Borders for a little bit of a browse - and to purchase a new Haruki Murakami title to be truthful - only to discover the shelves nearly empty. Yes, now Borders is closing as well.

I was horror struck! Where would I buy books in Geelong? Where would Geelong people buy books in Geelong for that matter? At least there is still a little branch of Dymocks, I guess, and the ABC shop, but Collins closed last year, so did the lovely little indy place around the corner from my Mum. Paton's Books is still open, but really, for a city the size of Geelong with 200,000ish residents, that's not very many. Well, okay, my very favourite second-hand bookshop Barwon Booksellersis still open as well...(shhhhhhh).

Actually, I not only felt sad when I was standing inside the rapidly emptying store, I also felt a little like the times were a changin' a little too quickly for me. I could really see a time that the huge mega-Amazons would have a world monopoly of books, and I didn't like the feeling one little bit. Now, I'll admit to purchasing the odd book online. Hey, I buy books everywhere!! As a homeschooling mum, it is necessary to purchase books offshore, and if you're placing an order for a years worth of CM books then I'm going where I can get the best price. That's going to be my mate Abe or the Book Depository (or Amazon when they have shipping deals). (Jane Brocket's Gentle Art of Knitting arrived yesterday. It is wonderful. (as you would expect. (well, as I expected.)))

Last week Amazon announced that for the first time e-book sales for Kindle outsold print books by a ratio of 105 Kindle books to 100 print books. Now at first I'll admit I was cynical, imagining that figure to be predominantly the free books that make up almost all of what you'll find on my Kindle. (I love my Kindle for free books, I really do! Do you?) Apparently though, I was wrong. Kindle tell us that sales of free books don't count. Neither do magazine subscriptions. Their figures really do show that they are selling more virtual books than real life ones.

So now I'm feeling more threatened than ever. I would be putting my head in the sand like an ostrich if I didn't realise that print books are on their way out and fast. Much faster than I realised. Much faster than Amazon expected as well. People like me - the self professed 'book tragics' will hold out for a while. So will those who like glossy coffee-table tomes.I reckon kids books have a fighting chance as well. At least until Kindles are bigger and coloured or until iPads are cheaper. Then, who knows?

To me e-books hold little of the appeal of their real life counterparts, but they are cheaper, and they are easier to store, and they don't clutter the bedside table nearly as much, and they are easy to hold, and the spines don't break and the corners don't bend, and it is easier to transport Jemimah's AO4 curriculum. As people work harder at putting out of print books online, these are becoming more easily accessible as well.

I am not giving up my massive book storage space right now, but I can see that the time will come. And soon.

And I am not excited about that.

Not happy Jan.

Here's a musical interlude. Just to lighten the mood...

Personally, I prefer Bob's version, but the choice of YouTube videos was not so inspiring.

I am often accused of being a Luddite. And I am not alone - people have been wary of change for a long time. Remember Samuel Crompton hiding his new spinning mule in the roof of his house back in 1779? (See, I read Great Inventors and their Inventions in AO3!) Many people, including me, are resistant to change. But it happens whether I like it or not. Just as cars overtook carts. I wonder if my grandparents were sad when they unhitched their faithful old cart horse for the very last time into the paddock and parked their brand new horseless carriage in her stable? Did they resist change then as well? Did they say that carriages would always be around? (I mean for people other than Will and Kate.)

What about you? Are you feeling threatened, as I am, or are you excited about the changes in the book industry? Are you pretending that nothing is happening? Where do you think it will end? Will the shopping world become a virtual online shopping experience? Will I buy everything from my laptop? From America? Or China? Or one of the Stans? Will I chose my next antique Asian textile from a description on a website in Laos - or worse from an Amazon-like conglomerate somewhere in India?

I will stock up with reading material before I next visit Geelong. There are still plenty of shops still in Melbourne for now.

This year.

I wonder how long it will be before they're closed as well.

For the times they are a changin'.



  1. Oh dear, that does make me sad. Not that I have much right to complain, since I buy 100% of our English books online. I haven't gotten a Kindle yet, so they are real paper books, but looking around our tiny apartment it is very hard to deny the lure of a thin, little device that can store thousands of books! My darling daughter is working on me to get one, and I doubt I can hold out much longer.

    Frankly, I found this post a little alarming. I did not realize that book stores are going out of business at such a rate. I have not seen that here in Japan yet, but there is a Japanese version of the Kindle now, and I know that Amazon Japan is very popular. Sigh. I'm feeling like a bit of a dinosaur - a sad dinosaur in denial. *pout*

  2. feeling very sad and rather threatened reading this. as an owner of 6000+ I can't imagine life without books, boohoo!!!

  3. I am still holding out. Real live books to the very last for me! Give me books that clutter up the bedside table, and are sometimes difficult to hold, books where the spines sometimes break, and the pages get folded over and sometimes fall out.

    Occasionally I even consider turning off my computer in protest ........ ;)

  4. I will never buy an ebook. They do not appeal to me at all.

    I love my real books and always will.

  5. I don't even know what a kindle is. Books will never be obsolete in this house, but it is sad to see so many bookstores disappearing. The loss of my closest borders was heartbreaking :-(

  6. I love books. I think books will always be around and there will always be bookshops. I hope it won't only be online stores though.

  7. The idea that books in print will disappear concerns me. I wonder how many LPs are around, unable to be listened to due to technology changing, then cassettes. Soon CDs will be obsolete to make way for something better than MP3 players. Books in print don't have obsolescence problems, if you can read then you will always be able to read it again but our ebooks may be unreadable in 10 years as technology changes.

    It scares me, reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury. How much knowledge, how many inspirational works will disappear if they ever only appeared in electronic version?

    Give me paper any day. Build me bookshelves and I will always be inspired and be able to learn and think.

    Best wishes
    Jen in NSW

  8. Jeanne, I'm with you. I got a Kindle for Christmas because someone knew my love for books. I have yet to really use it, except for downloading the already free books I planned to use from Project Gutenberg. This is the only way the Kindle will make my life easier, holding something smaller than a laptop when reading books I can no longer find reasonably priced. Ten thousand-to-one, I prefer real woodsy pages, with a blankie and a cuppa.

    You and I shall have the dusty corner shops of vintage books and serve both hemispheres, I s'pose!

  9. I'm sad about the demise of Borders--they were the only bookstore worth entering here. Still, I helped their demise--I also love Amazon. For most reading I COULD live with a KINDLE, but it would take an IPAD to enjoy the huge photographic treasuries and art books that I enjoy. I don't think books will leave us entirely. USED books are certainly selling well. The IPAD holds great promise and schools are starting to require tablet-computers and some are flirting with Kindle/Nook, etc. Who knows? My big fear with Kindle is do I REALLY own it "forever" or will it become obsolete and I'm out-of-luck? I'm a habitual re-reader--especially when I'm lonely! I'd hate to "miss" a certain book some night, flip thru the Kindle list and find....it's gone.........

  10. I have mixed feelings about the kindle. I have one, because DH wanted it.

    If I were in the States and fairly near a library, I can't imagine having a kindle.

    However, here in Japan, after the earthquake...books are just a really dangerous thing in an earthquake. So it feels good to get them on kindle instead of falling off our shelves.

    Having said that, I have been buying English books at a bookstore SPECIFICALLY to support the store and reward them for stocking English books. (Not because I NEED them. lol)

  11. I remember when I lived in Montana and every time I'd drive to Billings I'd visit the future site of Barnes and Noble on the off chance they were open yet. Such anticipation I felt for months.

    The opposite feeling is pulling up to Borders just before Christmas to do some shopping -only to find it almost empty and closing. Eeek.

  12. Apparently I live in a small little hole. I did not believe the day will come when Amazon will announce that ebook sales superseded real books sale.
    I believe though we are mourning another cadaver, that of the out of print books, the really quality books that now we get for our kindles for free. Most of what's published this days is truly rubbish. And the people that used to live off that rubbish, now doesn't find appealing to buy it but they rather load it to their notebooks and kindles.
    Then, we are buying some of those assassinated books in the resale stores that still exist, we are mourning the closing of book stores that were nice to have around, like Borders, and we are scrutinizing the Internet for some of those bargains or those fragile corps that change hands and that we revive in our homes with lots of love.

    Thanks for your witty post.

  13. I meant they don't buy the physical book, but buy the ebook.
    (If I only paid attention the first time I comment, ha!)

  14. J's mom... it's so sweet to hear you buy not needed books to support them, :)

    I live in the States and near a wonderful library with online system to place requests... I still have a humble kindle. How many books have I bought for it? Just a good copy of the Bible in Spanish. Just that. But don't ask me how it has around 200 titles! It helps me complement what I have and I'm acquiring. Many books I have in the Kindle, I'm buying when I find them... for now, it helps me follow up with Ambleside titles without spending a lot at once.
    However, I have only increased my book purchases, that stayed the same or increased after the kindle. It has a peculiar use at home that does not interfere or contradict my view of books, real books I call them, ha ha ha.

  15. Strangely, three bookstores have opened in Williamstown in the past 18 mths. Will they last? I hope so.

  16. Ah, the invisible hand of economics. Multi-media conglomerates pushed out independent publishers and big-box stores aided by selling their shelf space as real estate.

    I'll take my quality content on a Kindle, thank you.

  17. Claire in Tasmania6 August 2012 at 17:22

    I had an e-reader that brooke and I'm saving up for a new one (but not a Kindle. I'll examine my options and choose a different brand, because I can't buy anything from Amazon after reading about their awful working conditions). I am sad about the loss of bookstores, but I love having books that I can read in the wind and that take up less space on the shelf and especially if te real book is really big (I wish Isobel Carmody'd put her books out as ebooks). With 3 littles to chase after - snacks, drinks, nappies, change of clothes, extra layers for when it gets cold etc etc, lightweight books is a huge blessing. Especially when trying to do the CM outdoor time thing. And with AO1 and beyond looming, e-readers seem to me a godsend... Plus we expect one day to be called to international missions, so it also will help us to travel light... I don't feel like they're any less 'real' than print, either - as a church is people, not a building, so the book is the ideas of the author expressed in their words, not ink on paper. I just wish it was possible to support my local bookstore by buying ebooks through them *sigh* (we do still buy plenty of print books from them. I spent $65 on local field guides the other day - something you can't get for e-readers as yet, especially in colour).

  18. Oh yes, Claire. Totally agree with all your reasons for loving ebooks. I will always be a real book lover as well, though.


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