From the Content Director: Disappearing Acts
Other than pick up the slips and throw them out, however, we didn’t do anything to protest the protests, other than try to provide friendly and helpful service to our customers, who were plentiful. Once in a while someone would come to me for help locating a book and angrily announce: “Well, I really need this book right away and Community Bookstore didn’t have it so I had to come here!” After time, the anger calmed, and people came to believe, or at least to hope, that the two stores could co-exist and meet different needs.
The story didn’t quite play out the way we hoped. It was around this time the numbers of independent bookstores began what has been a slow and sad decline. And in the role of the big bad corporate giant, we seem to have exchanged one bogeyman for another. Barnes & Noble these days seems to many to be part of a solution rather than the cause of a problem, that problem being Amazon’s influence on ebook pricing. Some of us debate DRM (an issue that’s thoughtfully covered on page 12 of this issue), and some of us castigate Amazon as the evil corporate giant du jour. The Department of Justice has become an actor in the story as it tangles with some major publishers (a topic we’ll address, along with DRM, in our Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo on Sept. 13). And some of us, whether in print or digitally, just duck our heads and keep on keepin’ on writing, publishing and reading new books.
Back in the days when I carried heavy boxes of new titles, wiped dusty shelves and helped customers find what they wanted amidst a vast array of stacks, I would survey the store’s immense display of merchandise, running my eyes across rows and rows of spines, and realize how daunting was the challenge to any one book to break out of the pack. There was not only immense competition to surmount, but the hungry superstores’ new need to turn over merchandise at a rapid rate, giving books something we never knew they had: a shelf life and an expiration date.