The overwhelming lack of reaction to my post yesterday got me thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, ebooks pose a threat to one of the crucial players in our industry.
It occurred to me that if I was a bookseller, I might not be too thrilled about the prospect of large quantities of ebooks being downloaded from the Internet, and bypassing my shop - and cutting into my sales. I certainly wouldn't want to hear about new devices that would enhance those opportunities.
Bricks and Mortar retailers play a hugely important role in the book publishing ecosystem. Aside from the obvious, that they sell books, retailers are responsible for starting much of the viral marketing that occurs around new titles and new authors. They take the time to read many of the new works in print, and tell other retailers about them. They create "buzz" where none existed and where publishers did not have the resources to make it happen.
Booksellers know their customers better than the publishers do, and are a critical link in the author-to-reader chain. They are also actively involved in the marketing of authors, providing venues for authors to meet their readers via book signings and lectures.
Ebooks offer great promise to everyone in the book ecosystem, except physical retailers. Even libraries have figured out how to use ebooks to their advantage.
If ebooks are ever going to be a truly viable economic opportunity, book publishers should really think hard about how to help booksellers be a part of the equation. I think that the publishers themselves should take some responsibility here.
Retailers have had to struggle with many threats in the past, most notably chain superstores, and online only retailers. Those that have survived those threats have learned to adapt the the changed playing field. And, this will continue... but, I'm sure that they could use a little help!
And, how can we attack a problem like literacy, if we are not all working together?