Monday, December 6, 2010

Things Expected to be Destroyed by Technology Besides Books, Plus Our Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller List

I think about this today, as there was an article in The New York Times yesterday about the troubles in the freelance music business in New York. The alternatives are endless, and they echo just about any other industry--there are now lots of ways to use a cheaper alternative, from buying packaged prerecorded music, to creating it on a computer, to outsourcing it. This only followed by days the story about how cameras are being replaced by smart phones.

So it was almost amusing that over the weekend, several conversations with customers veered between two extremes.

1. I have an ebook, I'm getting an ebook, or my favorite, they gave me an ebook and I didn't want one.

and

2. Why don't you open a store in my neighborhood/town? Yes, I really had one of these in the store and two of them at the Outpost/Our Milwaukee market at the Lakefront Brewery. Alas, it ain't happening. I did the multiverse, and I'm a one-location guy for the foreseeable future.

Not only do I not see every neighborhood having a bookstore in the future, I see less square footage devoted to books. And I'm being optimistic, compared to those prognosticators that claim to see the book as dead in five years. Here's a famous one from Nicholas Negroponte. Maybe true? The thing is about these is that nobody loses points for saying outrageous things that don't come true so you're always better off saying them than not.

Heck, you could get a column in the National Enquirer, like Jeanne Dixon. Or rather, the equivalent website. Besides, the world is ending in 2012 anyway.

Onto the nonfiction bestseller lists for the week.

1. The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, by Kelly Peloza.
A couple of folks from Outpost Natural Foods were oohing and ahhing over this book with me at the market. This is from our event last Sunday.

2. The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1
According to our customers, still hard to find. Reprints are coming. We've got stock but are selling out quickly.

3. Life, by Keith Richards
No one-week pop for this guy. Seems to be on a lot of holiday lists.

4. Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?, by Ina Garten
I'm told she has overtaken Rachael and Giada to be Potter's best-selling cookbook author.

5. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
The first of the awards roll in, as Schiff is top 10 New York Times Book Review. We have stock but we hear that stock issues are developing. Don't wait on this one.

6. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Great reads in the store and everywhere. Not everyone can follow up a Seabiscuit success in such a satisfying way. Good for her (and us, I guess).

7. To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O'Donohue.
Yes, it's almost three years old. And we figured out over the weekend what this pop was about, but I've already forgotten. No help on Twitter, but yes, you can follow this author.

8. Wisconsin's Own, by Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman.
I'm trying to figure out if the authors have any more upcoming events. I wish you could sort your search results by date posted, don't you? That would have also helped me with the O'Donohue. I guess I could email them, huh?

9. I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas, by Lewis Black.
I think this was Jason's holiday book pick. They sure do release a lot of them. And even more in kids. I haven't been having luck selling them at offsites. Do folks worry about them not being readable in January? On the other hand, I've been getting a lot of reads on It's a Book and Children Make Terrible Pets. No surprise there.

10. The Gourmet Cookie Book, by Gourmet Magazine.
Should be on our list next week too. We already had a strong day with it on Sunday, and that's not including me selling out at the gift show.

For those folks looking for Glenn Murray and Daniel C. Goldie's (yes, that's almost my name) The Investment Answer, Hachette has gotten the rights to this book (no way Goldie's could fulfill the demand on this himself). It's got a pub date of 1/25, which means we could see it before Christmas. Yes, for some publishers, it means that's when it is coming, but Hachette is old school and gives that as a date for when it should be in all stores and the reviews should be scheduled. Alas, nobody really follows those guidelines anymore, but I think it's sweet!

1 comment:

Chels said...

Nooo, I don't believe any of this crap about e-readers destroying books. Having not been at an attentive age when personal computers got popular, I can only assume that there were people saying the same thing about computers destroying the notion of reading as a hobby. Actually, I'm surprised that the entertainment available on the internet isn't people's main concern - movies and video games are a bigger threat to books than e-readers, and they've co-existed for a while now. E-readers are cool, but first of all, not everybody can have one or even wants one, and second, they're just the next advancement in technology, like computers were. I'm a student at UWM and I was up in Special Collections at the library the other day for a class, and Max (the guy that runs it) brought up a good point. Look at all of the artist books that never could have existed without the availability of the computer (House of Leaves is an excellent example of this). Personally, I can't imagine how artists would adapt to accommodate e-readers, but if they have to, they will - even though I'm sure they won't have to. E-readers are a luxury, and besides that, you will always have people who not only understand the merits of having a physical copy of something, but love the physicality of books. Like me. I have bought books because they smelled, just... right. And I know that can't be that weird because I have book nerd friends who understand that.

I don't really see smartphones replacing cameras, either, at least not on a level that matters for photographers (which I also am). People may have very available and cool capabilities with their phones, but for things that matter (like weddings, other big events) not only do people want actual good quality art to commemorate it, they will always be willing to pay someone else to do it, if only because that allows the attendees to enjoy themselves and not have to worry about how they're shaping everyone's memory of this event for life.

Books (and photography, too) are art. That's the thing. Art is very adaptable and there will always be art enthusiasts, and artists themselves, who want to preserve things even if it doesn't make "sense" technologically. Painters still exist. They still paint on hand-stretched canvases with the same oil paint that will give you lead poisoning if you get too much on you (or eat it, of course), and that you need a turpentine-based medium to even use. Artists still use charcoal and pencils to draw, even with the invention of photoshop and the tablet.

Besides, the people who stop caring about the materiality of things, that chunk of people that don't understand and aren't artists and want everyone to spoon-feed information to them - they've already given up on them. And honestly, I would expect my generation to have a much bigger demographic of kids who didn't care about books than what I've actually seen - most of my classmates in high school DID care about books and didn't think reading was dorky, it was just those few stoners/super seniors who already didn't understand anything that didn't "get it."

So, yeah - in summary, more people care about books than these people give them credit for and since books are an art they'll adapt, everything will be fine, yay books yadda yadda :)