LOCAL BOOKSTORES RECLAIM THEIR GROUND
BOOKS-IN-PRINT RULE WITH HIGH VOLUME SALES
E-BOOK SALES PLUNGE
A Renaissance is here but with room for all mediums of communication
Many years ago, a street-smart guy that I knew from work offered me a memorable pearl of wisdom. During lunch at a greasy spoon near our office, we became engrossed in a deep conversation. Our discussion covered a myriad of topics. At one point, he leaned across the table and without hesitation, said in a gravelly voice made worse by his three-pack-a-day habit, “This world is a big place, man. There’s plenty of room here for everybody.”
Although not quite profound, his words have remained with me while the man has since passed away. I guess my coworker’s take on our world can be applied to almost any aspect of society, not the least of which is the way we do our reading and the medium we choose to gain and acquire knowledge and stay informed.
Let me explain where I’m going with this. The most recent data complied within the last two years reveals a steady decline in the sales of the once heralded new technology, e-books. This has been followed with a return in popularity and high-volume sales of the old-fashioned books-in-print.
We are also witnessing a major resurgence of local independent bookstores in big cities like New York. And there is no reason why this renaissance will not soon take hold throughout all of the United States. So much for the dire fate that was predicted for brick-and-mortar bookstores twenty years ago in the blockbuster film, “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
CNN reported on April 27, 2017 that e-book sales declined 18.7% in the United States over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%. Likewise, sales of consumer e-books plunged 17% in the U.K. in 2016, according to the Publishers Association. Sales of physical books and journals went up by 7% over the same period, while children's books surged 16%. According to the Pew Research Center, 65% of Americans reported reading a printed book in 2016 compared to only 28% who read an e-book.
Don’t misunderstand. I believe Amazon’s online services are terrific, (although surprisingly, they too, have now gone ahead and opened physical stores of their own); and Kindle and Nook e-readers certainly serve a purpose for many book lovers, but there is no reason why the electronic medium that sells and delivers books cannot coexist with the tried and true physicality of books-in-print and brick and mortar establishments.
As that wise man once said to me, “This world is a big place, man. There’s plenty of room here for everybody.”
THE SLOW DEATH OF NEWSPAPERS-IN-PRINT
Now as to another matter.
The unprecedented decline of the newspaper industry and the demise of the printed newspaper is unfortunately, another matter entirely and presents itself as an institution which does not appear salvageable. The real shame with much online journalism featured on social media as blogs, is that they do not equate to real journalism and many of the bloggers who churn these out are not real journalists. The fact is many of these online contributors are not even being paid for their efforts.
This is coupled with another essential missing ingredient needed to make stories effective - the need for seasoned editors. An editor’s job is to demonstrate a commitment to accuracy, fairness and a comprehensive account of events that presents all sides of a story and build credibility and trust among its readers. This is sorely missing. As print journalism continues to move to an all- electronic format, qualified editors are essential to take the lead and create new standards for news websites and internet reporting. Effective editors invest time in reporters, talking through story ideas and flushing out unique story angles. When a story requires significant editing, they review changes with reporters so they can learn and grow professionally.
Time will be the clear indicator whether the electronic medium will present honest reporting and provide real journalism to its readers.