If you ask a local business about “showrooming,” they’ll either scowl or, more likely, look befuddled. The practice is booming among consumers, though, and any business owner has probably seen it: a customer walks into the store, browses the shelves, and then whips out her smartphone.
A few minutes later, she’s gone. Where’d she go? Well, she already ordered the item she saw in the store at a discount. On the Internet. Not from your store.
About half of consumers are using showrooming while they’re purchasing. The jury’s out on whether it’s really bad for retail or not-so-bad-but-probably-not-good.
However, one type of retail is suffering more than others: bookstores.
The general grumbling from book publishers and bookstores alike is that the whole eBook format is going to destroy them. Smart-mouthed, tech savvy people who like Disruption are quick to agree. They call publishers “dinosaurs” who don’t get it, and other mean things.
Really, publishers are trying to get quality books into the hands of readers.
When there are no filters, self-publishing threatens that notion of “quality” in a big way (as we can see with the acclaimed werewolf love stories).
But a lot of the time, authors are self-publishing because they have no choice. Publishers won’t take risks on unknown writers and certainly not on unconventional fiction. They’re more inclined to support blockbusters and nothing else.
Publishers have just had to adapt. We saw that when Random House and Penguin merged. And now, finally, it looks like they can finally say the word “eBook” without grimacing.
I just watched “Dear Mr. Watterson,” a light-hearted documentary about the impact that Bill Watterson’s ever-famous, ever-persistent comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes, has had on people over the years.
The part that gripped me most was when several prominent cartoonists spoke in extremely gloomy terms about new media.
Berkeley Breathed, the cartoonist behind Opus, Bloom County, and Outland, said that Bill Watterson had created the last great comic strip. He claims that art itself is now “atomized.”
He reasons that there’s a lot of stuff out there, but nothing that could be water-cooler conversation material, a piece of art that people – including Breathed’s mom – all know.
That made me wonder – are artists specializing their work to death? With so few filters to get through, and the freedom to only support the very, very specific, niche work we like, are we guaranteeing that no art can have the same widespread, enduring impact of something like Calvin & Hobbes?
A while ago, I read the excellent book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McCafee, Race Against the Machine. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about automation, whether I’m looking at Google’s driverless cars or checking out at CVS through a self-service kiosk.
It’s a weird time to be alive and, if the common wisdom about robots these days is even half-accurate, this is the beginning. The next areas that most people think will be automated include legal work and healthcare. Shipping and manufacturing will continue to get Robotized, too.
That leaves us with an economy that increasingly relies on Creativity as a commodity. But, with new algorithms in place, even the writers and artists and musicians among us may start getting replaced.
Sometimes, I feel guilty about blogging. It’s a little pinching sensation, probably a sensation most writers are familiar with – the feeling that you’re wasting time you should be using to work on your novel.
That’s why I was reassured when I read a recent interview with a professor about “the Lost Generation” and found out that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were also both dawdling bloggers, in their own right.
Book sales are hard to figure out.
On the one hand, we’ve seen a slow dip in sales for the past few years. On the other hand, independent bookstores reported a 10% spike in sales for the last holiday season. Then again, one study found that 85% of children readers aged 2-13 are using tablets and other e-readers to read their books.
Personally, I think bookstores are going to stick around for a long time.
But let’s try out a thought experiment, given that everyone is so worried about their health.
If there were no bookstores and only e-readers, what, exactly, would publishers do for authors?
Sometimes, I like to do market research about eBooks by acting like someone looking for deals.
I did that the other day and the first challenge, as usual, was finding out where I could actually find eBooks on Amazon. They don’t make it as easy as it should be… but I don’t think Amazon is that concerned with driving traffic to the Kindle store.
After about five minutes of listless clicking, I stumbled upon the Kindle Daily Deal pages. And, in front of me, I saw the future of eBooks: a boxed set. Werewolf Love Stories. Three for a dollar.
A lot of writers view self-publishing eBooks as a slog to the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not that we necessarily want to market all of our stuff and pump out eight books a year to make a living.
It’s just what has to happen if publishers keep setting their sights on blockbusters.
Well, it looks like publishers have found a middle ground: some are thinking of using eBooks as a way to throw unknown writers into the Pit of Public Scrutiny and see who survives. Then, just then, the winners may be crowned with Print Publication.
Who’s going to save literary fiction?
Prominent agents have said that big publishers these days are just focused on pushing out blockbuster titles. You know, things that will sell millions.
That leaves self-proclaimed “literary authors” that write “literary fiction” biting their nails.
But never fear, literary authors… Amazon is here.
That’s right – the online retailer has just launched a literary fiction imprint known as “Little A.”
I forget what I was Googling, but I found a very unique press release that caught my eye: “Serial Killer Starts Blog Ahead of 2MCH4YA Book Completion.” Yes, a serial killer featured in the upcoming novel, “taRNished,” now has a blog.
The blog is an example of what I’ve been thinking about a lot when it comes to book marketing: the power of personas. The only thing I wonder is… is this really going to work?