Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Book Business by Jason Epstein

We've been talking a lot about the coming revolution - digitisation and Print on Demand. But we're just a couple of chancers too used to speaking our minds to be employed by anybody else - as various established trade figures have suggested recently - what do we know? (And why don't they shut up!)

Jason Epstein founded Anchor Books, cofounded the New York Review of Books and created the Library of America (beautiful HB US classics imprint).

He knows what he's talking about and whaddayouknow - he agrees with us!

"It is less clear how new technologies will transform retail bookselling as the chains in their oversaturated marketplace face competition from Internet booksellers and the prospect of limitless virtual inventories available on demand in electronic or printed form at random locations. These factors have already discouraged investment in the retail chains, whose share prices have stagnated at low levels. Nonetheless, a civilisation without retail booksellers is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifacts of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience, linking writer to reader. But to compete with the World Wide Web, bookstores of the future will be different from the mass-oriented superstores that now dominate the retail marketplace. Tomorrow's stores will have to be what the Web cannot be: tangible, intimate, and local; communal shrines, perhaps with coffee bars offering pleasure and wisdom in the company of others who share one's interests, where the book one wants can always be found and surprises and temptations spring from every shelf."

I say again - if you're out there with the technology we'd love to help develop and test it in a retail setting...


  1. It's going to happen in some form or other. Take a look at this great entry by those upstarts at Snow Books.

  2. The one titled 'Our Friend Destruction' - 19 October

  3. "...perhaps with coffee bars..."

    While the print on demand folk refine their technology, maybe we should start by investing in a kettle.

  4. You have a kettle - but the coffee`s better from the bar across the way.

  5. I hope that you had your shop radio tuned in to R4 You and Yours today (25th Oct 12.30-1245 approx) and heard "your mate" Bryan Appleyard expressing his views about terrestial bookshops and POD : the man was spouting codswallop, the poor darling.