Selling books

Yesterday I touched on the superiority of digital 'print on demand' over traditional litho printing in terms of real cost, including the cost of the unsold waste of printed books. Later on I'll discuss the consequentially changed linkage connecting the book's author to the creation and selling of his printed book. Today I'd just like to imagine the end game of all this from the point of view of the retailer of books.

Most of us love our bookshops. There is a warm, inviting quality to such an store, akin perhaps to that of a library or even to a church. Yes, bookshops are great givers of pleasure. Nevertheless the advent of massive, often lower price on-line sites such as the mighty Amazon, allied to the fast growth of print on demand technology, must presage some fundamental changes for the high street bookshop.

I think you can see the end game, can't you? Let me put forward my own hypothesis. You tell me where are its flaws ...

1. The vast majority of new books, paperback or hardback, colour illustrated or plain text, will be printed on demand only and will be sold directly from printer to reader. The printer may well be the author. Only a specialised minority will be bought by retailers, whether high street or on-line 'on spec' in the hope or expectation of being sold on to readers.

2. No reader will know or care about the name of the book's publisher or the printer. He will look, as for any other product, for quality of content and product, in that order. But the name of the author will continue to be the 'brand'of a book and will go forward as the primary stimulus to sales and purchases.

3. There will be a proliferation of antiquarian or second hand book shops. They will become 'comfort zones', to an even greater extent than present trends. But all of them will purchase or re-purchase second hand books. Readers will always be inclined to re-cycle their books, once read. This implies a vast increase in the availability of much lower cost reading material and a consequential acceleration in hours spent in reading as well as the numbers of books sold and read.

4. Electronic readers such as the new 'Kindle'will find their niche within the readership profile, but are likely to take only a small share of reader hours. The pleasure of reading incorporates a tactile element which cannot easily be substituted.

5. All books will be priced in the same way as any other low ticket industrial/consumer product; i.e. how many do you want? 1 = 100p, 10 = 90p each, 100 = 75p each, etc. Doesn't matter whether or not you are a reader of books or a retailer or a wholesaler, and nor will the producer name mean very much if anything.

So, as an author, when am I going to begin to print and sell you my books? Watch all these spaces!

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