Save the Trees. Or, Bestsellers Only, All Others Go in the Back Way

I’ve been reading a lot about how the publishing world is changing, and, wonder of wonders, decided to share my thoughts on the subject. I mean, why not?

I practically lived in bookstores when I was growing up. Two in particular. The first was a used bookstore right down the road from the public library named The Book Nook. I loved to browse the shelves of old books and breathe in the tiny particulates of decaying paperbacks. You could trade books at The Book Nook, but I bought most of mine. I had a hard time parting with my books. I’m pretty sure I bought my first teen romance there. I know I bought my first hardback book there. I still have it and probably always will. Black Beauty and Other Horse Stories. It cost $15 and took me almost a month to save up for. And it’s one of my most prized possessions, although, sadly, The Book Nook has long since closed its doors.

The other bookstore introduced me to my love of science fiction and fantasy. I was a little older when Highland Books opened up. It was a little further away, not quite an easy walk for me, so I either had to beg my mother to take me there (and she usually did since she was as much a bookworm as I am), or wait until she had an errand to run nearby. Fortunately for me, when I was a young girl, my mother got a job at the dry cleaners nearby and I often walked from there. In Highland Books I fell in love with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. I remember how excited I got whenever a new Pern book came out, and I still have most of those dilapidated paperbacks, too. Right next to L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books, which I also purchased from Highland Books.

With all that said, you can tell my love of books runs deep. I have a degree in library science, for heaven’s sake. So the idea that I would abandon my dream of having a book published with my name on its silky cover is absurd, right? The very idea that I would be content to have my books published electronically! That I would accept that the changes in the publishing world are not necessarily going to fit in with where I want my career to go…well, it’s not even to be thought of, correct?

Not so. I’m seeing writing on the walls of every bookstore I go into. That writing says plainly, “We stock bestsellers. All others need not apply.” And who can blame them? Bookstores sell books, and bestsellers sell. How long before publishers go the same route? How long before bestsellers are the only books they are willing to put out in hard copy and the rest of us are relegated to e-publishing? I think it’s closer than we’d like to believe.

I don’t think bookstores are going anywhere. I anticipate a change, however, and those who don’t adapt to it will be smooshed under the weight of the biggies. I foresee a bookstore with fewer shelves of books. Maybe some local interest, a few history and plenty of stacks of New York Times Bestsellers. Interspersed in these shelves, which are really more for background than for sale, will be cushy couches and chairs and maybe even a few beanbags. I foresee people with their eyes glued to their Nooks and Kindles and smart phones (and all the other e-readers), browsing the exclusive electronic content available only in the store. Perhaps a whole magazine or newspaper or the first three chapters of a featured book.

Am I selling out by allowing my books to be electronically published first? Or am I embracing an inevitable future that, much as it might pain me, is probably inexorable? Well, at least I can say I’m saving trees.

2 thoughts on “Save the Trees. Or, Bestsellers Only, All Others Go in the Back Way

  1. You’re not selling out. Is your book published? Does it still have a beautiful cover? Do you words reach an audience in the eform? Isn’t THAT what it’s all about?

    I personally think we’re all caught up in the idea that a book isn’t a book unless it’s in paper form and in the hands of a reader with the cover showing to every passerby.

    I disagree with this notion. I believe paper books will be around but that people who want paper will spend more to get them and will buy them from/through their local bookstore and/or online.

    Just like someone who buys an ebook. They browse the ‘shelves’ of the Internet and pick and choose based on their friends recommendations.

    The ‘book’ is still a book. 🙂

    • Thank you for weighing in, Aimee! And you’ll notice I agree that books will still be available. I just think a larger and larger proportion of books will be available only in e-format. Perhaps it will be a kind of “prooving ground” for authors. Once you’ve proven your words are important, you’ll be promoted to printed form.

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