The news keeps getting better month by month for authors and readers alike. The old, traditional, monopolistic publishing industry is fading rapidly. Good riddance. With it goes the middlemen, the obscene contracts, the thefts of rights, the low royalties, the limitations of access and of selection, and the tyranny of the gatekeepers.
Barnes and Noble, the last of the big chain booksellers, has announced it will allow some self-published books in its 640 or so stores nationwide. Some, not all. First, a book has to be formatted for Nook, which is B&N’s house version of Kindle. They’re keeping it in the family. Then, there are sales number requirements (1,000 for e-books, 500 for physical copies). Finally, a review board must approve the book for shelving.
Book Business/Mike Valasnick – Flickr.
This is a systemization of their current, difficult and arbitrary policy. An idie author can already get into B&N but the process and the resulting rewards (if any) are so uncertain it’s almost not worth it. B&N is desperately and belatedly trying to compete with Amazon, which allows any and all authors access to their digital store.
Book Business makes a bigger deal out of this story than it needs to. They compare B&N’s 640 stores (and shrinking?) to Amazon as if Amazon was a nebulous startup concept.
Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore. Period. No, they don’t just have one single store in Seattle. They have as many stores as there are computers, tablets, and smartphones in the world. What is that number? A billion stores? Five billion? It’s huge. I have two of those stores in my immediate possession right now.
Sometimes I get asked if The Happy Little Cigar Book is in bookstores. I always say “yes” and refer the inquirer to Amazon. By the way, just click the link two sentences back, and you’re in the store, ready to buy a copy.
When was the last time you went into a bookstore? Odds are it was a B&N as they’re about the only game left in town – and only in decent sized towns. There are, here and there, small private stores but their selection is extremely limited. An indie house might have 5,000 – 10,000 books that the owner felt like carrying. A big B&N might have 10,000 – 30,000. I’ve noticed B&N sells fewer and fewer real books in their stores and more picture books, calendars, coffee mugs, and other stuff. They’ll have popular bestselling novels but perhaps not a work of classical history or philosophy.
Amazon has millions and millions (scores of millions) of books. The e-books one can buy and start reading within about 30 seconds. Hardcover and paperbacks take a few days for delivery. They’re prices are better too because of the economy of scale.
It’s getting harder to find a “real” bookstore just as it’s getting harder to find a “real” book from a “real” publisher. The big houses are in deep trouble. If not for coloring books and romance novels, they would already be gone. The world has changed – for the better.
Am I happy B&N is opening up? Yes. Will I try to get a few of my works into their hallowed stores? Yes. Will I obsess about it? No. Amazon and the internet are the future and the future is now and has been for a few years.