Thoughts about #bookshops

I finished at #Waterstones on Christmas Eve and now I\’m back in the #Costa coffee shop, scribbling away and drinking espressos. #JamesDaunt are you listening? Here, for what it\’s worth, are some of my thoughts about bookshops and Waterstones in particular
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Firstly, I\’ve worked in all sorts of places and most of them are full of nice people struggling to do a good job despite the best efforts of management. Waterstones, Truro, was different: the people were even nicer and so was the management. You can rely on what I say here: if I\’m still enthusiastic about the place after working Christmas Eve there, that\’s pretty impressive.
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Secondly, there is a persistent feeling of doom hanging over bookshops as ebooks motor into the sales figures. I talked to quite a few customers about this. People love their little ereaders, they love being able to download books instantly, they love being able to change the print size and they love being able to take dozens of books with them everywhere they go. Age doesn\’t matter here – in fact it\’s older readers raving about ereaders which they find easier to hold and lighter to carry. Youngsters like my son actually prefer large lush hardback books with beautiful pictures on which they spend eyewatering sums.
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So not only are ereaders here to stay, they\’re going to munch up some of the book markets. This is why so many publishers are in a flat spin: their business models are broken and they don\’t know what to do about it.
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A lot of them are moving into ebook publishing as fast as they can – a good start. Some of them are also trying to stiff the writers along the way, which is very silly of them. Even writers can count and add up. The Society of Authors is fighting for 40% – a much higher share of royalties than you get with physical books because, once you\’ve set it up, which isn\’t that costly, you do not have materials, printing, warehousing or transport costs.
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Which is the point of this article. How are bookshops – those wonderful bastions of intelligent social life and civilization – going to cope with ebooks on top of the competition from huge Internet tax-dodgers like Amazon?
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I\’m certain that bookshops will survive ereaders, just as theatres survived movies and TV. People will still want treebooks – big beautiful illustrated ones, non-fiction, children\’s books. I do think mass-market paperbacks will disappear, though, and become about 80% ebooks. Recipe treebooks will go the same way, perhaps, but art books, craft books, gardening books – perhaps they\’ll still be around. Self-help and travel guides – ebooks. Big reference books that survive – treebooks. And so on.
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I say, make friends with ebooks. Invite them into the shop. Put a barcode on the shelves so people can come into the shop, see a book they might not have thought of reading until they saw it, and download it immediately to their ereader. That way the bookshop gets the money not the tax-dodgers and I can continue to sit and drink coffee and write in one of the two most civilized places in Truro.