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Monday, November 10, 2008

Bookstores Brace For Slow Sales in 2008 Holiday Season

book burnout

Despite highly-anticipated upcoming releases in fiction as well as non-fiction, including the autobiographies of T. Boone Pickens and Ted Turner, there's a growing anxiety among bookstores that the holiday sales season will be a harsh and cold winter.

Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes and Noble, told the Wall Street Journal that the book retailer was delaying expansion and cutting new store openings.During the past six months, Barnes and Noble's stock  has fallen to almost half of its price on May 30, from $30.51 on May 30 to today's price around $17. Misery must love company, because B&N's rival, ,Books-A-Million sank from $7.51 to a staggeringly low of  $275 as of 12:37 p.m. ,today.  Riggio also said:


Never in all my years as a bookseller have I seen a retail climate as poor as the one we are in. Nothing even close...I am saddened by the many stories of booksellers who have taken big hits in their 401K plans, including many who have a large percentage of their holdings in (our) stock.


In our digital society, hard-copy books are falling into a new classification- leisure reading, the same category of most magazines and newspapers. With the exception of college students and professors, most of us don't have sufficient time to read as many books as we would like to during our busy schedules. Judging by the growing number of audiobook titles for sale at the iTunes store, more of us are opting listen to the book when we find a few extra minutes during our daily commute.Our sound-byte culture would rather read it a few pages at  a time on iPhone or watch the movie version.

This latest example of our detachment to print media comes as no surprise, I just wish author and professor Neil Postman was still alive to offer his opinion. In 1985Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death: "Public discourse in the age of showbusiness", foresaw the shift well before most analysts. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman warned that  a culture obsessed with TV would eventually lose its ability to analyze and evaluate critical ideas. In one one of the most relevant sections from the book, Postman credits his inspiration from prognosticators: Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.....Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

I think Huxley,Orwell and Postman were pretty accurate with their predictions.

books a million stock

By Matt O'Hern at 01:46 PM | Comments (3)

(3) Thoughts on Bookstores Brace For Slow Sales in 2008 Holiday Season

"With the exception of college students and professors, most of us don't have sufficient time to read through a novel in the middle of our busy lives."

That is one of the most ridiculous statements I've read in some time. We make time for what we want to make time for. Most people live lives of waste that could be so much more if they devoted the time they did have towards worthy pursuits and not television shows and surfing the internet.

Comments by Jason Gines : Monday, November 10, 2008 at 10:05 PM

Thanks for your feedback. I just wanted to tell you that I was very conflicted when I was trying to phrase that point, and your comment persuaded me to revise my statement. What I TRULY meant to say was: With the exception of college students and professors, many of us, myself included, don't designate enough time to read a novel as often we should.

Your comment reflects the last section of the post, where I referenced Postman and I should have stuck with my gut.
I'm glad you brought it to my attention, because I was worried my point may be misinterpreted.

Comments by Matt O'Hern : Monday, November 10, 2008 at 11:49 PM

While there is a huge glut of books, and has been for years, there are plenty of people who make time for reading and will continue to buy books. In fact, it's likely that books, overall, will experience a resurgence in popularity as the most cost-effective entertainment medium available.

Booksellers and publishers would gain from the current economic climate if they were able to make the case for the book as the ideal gift. Books are compact, lightweight and sturdy (making them ideal for shipping as well as easy to wrap); they are inexpensive, enlightening (often educational), and come in a virtually unlimited variety. This is no secret to publishing and bookselling professionals--but why can't we get it across to potential customers?

Personally, I plan to give everyone on my list a book this year, and I'll purchase them in a bookstore rather than online. It's a shame there are so few surviving independent bookshops given the trend of people shopping close to home. Now it is left largely to B&N, among brick and mortar retailers, to make the case for books and bookstores.

I don't see how they can do it without increased and coordinated support from publishers and wholesalers.

Comments by John Bryans : Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 12:17 PM

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