In response to my post, here are your responses and observations so far
This is a thoughtful post. Mystery Bookstores are indeed struggling, as are all bookstores, but I think the thing you pointed out that had the most resonance was the difference between sending a text and meeting at a coffee shop for a chat. Both communication, just different types. I hope there will be room for both print & electronic books, though like vinyl records, the print version may become a “collectible”. As you also astutely point out, some of the hardest hit will be midlist authors, and the breadth of publishing in general. Our books that are handsell successes come from us, putting the book in people’s hands (as I’ve done with yours, actually) and saying “this is great, you HAVE to read it.” That won’t happen online. The quirky and original may get lost.
Aunt Agatha’s Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Your essay about the demise of bookstores et al. is very interesting, and I sent it to two bookstore owner friends. Thank you.
What a well done article! I have a vested interest in the survival of my own independent bookstore(Laguna Beach Books),where you did an author signing for your terrific book “Wife of the Gods”,but the entire issue of electronic reading seems to me to at least hint at a world where there no gathering places—no book shops in Paris,no serendipitous discovery in a small store in Austin–if a delivery system is created for coffee and pastries through a computer screen I guess most of us can stay home by ourselves-I hope if you are working on your next book that you will come and see us, best regards,
Laguna Beach Books
Oh, the questions you raise!
When my children were young, we had a Friday night routine. We would go out for pizza and then go to the local B&N and we all would browse for a couple of hours. My children would cheat a bit; they were fast readers so if they found a short book they liked, they would read it on the spot. Long books were worth purchasing.
Even when my children were young, they are adults now, there weren’t any independent bookstores in our area. They discovered those when they were able to travel by public transportation to Boston and to Cambridge. Harvard Square was/is a mecca for independents.
I am rapidly heading to senior citizen class and I confess that I do most of my book shopping on Amazon because it is convenient and they have everything. They get the bulk of my business at Christmas because my kids don’t read a lot of fiction (except Stephen King). What they do read are books that are esoteric and usually fall into the history/cultural/ social science gendre. But, they do read. All three are appalled by the Kindle and Nook, especially the Kindle because it doesn’t allow borrowing books from the library.
The library was even more important than bookstores because the choices were vast. Our system allows kids to get their own cards when they can print their names. It was a big “rite of passage”moment for my kids.
That being said, I think that published paper books are always going to be in demand, at least until we baby boomers die off. We are the biggest group of readers in the country, probably because as we retire we have more time. It is very sad that on the other end of the spectrum, fewer children’s books are being sold. This maybe because kids have more entertainment choices and are not being read to as often as they once were. Reading to kids makes them early readers. I was always pleased to see that mine were reading under the blankets with the trusty flashlights when they were supposed to be sleeping. Watching a DVD of THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE doesn’t come close to having it read chapter by chapter, doling out the joy of the book, not quite wanting the book to end.
Another downside to e-readers is the initial cost of the device and then the cost of the books. I could not afford to buy all the books I read nor do I have room for the paper editions. I buy books to support authors I really appreciate (such as yourself, the bloggers on Murder Is Everywhere, and a few others like Charles Todd and Donna Leon). I read four or five books a week, all mysteries, most taken out from the library. Many of those baby boomer readers are on fixed incomes; the library is their lifeline, socially and intellectually. Libraries need the same level of support as public schools, the two things that even out the playing field for kids in this country.
I started a blog at the end of June. It came about, in large part, because of an Amazon discussion group. Leighton Gage began posting about the difficulties mid-list writers have promoting their books since the publishers only push James Patterson and his kind (I have not read any of his books, they don’t appeal to me). My daughter heard me talking about this problem ad infinitum so she presented me with the a blog, told me to name it, and start reviewing the authors who needed some attention. I posted the first review on June 26. WIFE OF THE GODS was reviewed on June 30. I posted it again on January 28 as part of a series of books set in warm countries while we in New England were dealing with five feet of snow.
The number of people who read the blog was been steadily increasing. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to know how many people who read it purchase the books or seek them out in libraries.
As to publishing e-books, I guess that is a decision for each writer. I know Tim Hallinan put his out of print Simeon Grist series on Amazon as e-books and he is finishing a new book in the series that will only be be an e-book. I know that e-books put more money in the pockets of the authors. I am a long way from buying a Kindle. The only thing that might tip me in that direction is the ability to increase font size and that may become a necessity down the road. But, although I read and enjoyed the Simeon Grist books as they were published, I did purchase the e-books because I could download them to the PC. Maybe more people are doing that than buying the Kindle.
Right now, in my house, there a 72 library books, some mine, some my husbands. I place books on hold from other towns in our library system (we are allowed 20) and I troll through the lists of books available at the main branch. He goes every Saturday and returns 12 or so books to add to the pile. Being able to renew books allows us to read just about everything we take out and if it is not something to our taste it goes into the return pile with no regrets because we have plenty more to choose from. Throughout January we had a blizzard with over twelve inches of snow every week. There were also some storms with a little less snow but the aggregate was 5 feet; we added another foot the first week in February. As long as we had coffee and books we were all set to ride out the storms. We also have a book closet full of non-fiction that we have been acquiring over the years. We are both interested in history.
If you have any articles or interviews that you wish to send on, I can put them on the blog as the new book heads to the shelves.
Thanks to the above contributors. Other comments welcomed!