I went along to a presentation of the Booksellers Association report Brave New World that was to look into the impact of digitisation on the UK book market.
I turned up, ate a load of canapes but declined the wine having already visited a rather good pub.
A room full of suits and plenty of blah and jargon later I felt very much none the wiser. However having read the report I was enlightened a little.
We already have a blog (obviously) and an internet shop, though sales through the net have been disappointing so far. I think Amazon have things fairly well sewn up in that department. We plan to archive our events as podcasts on our website soon and also want to set up a forum where people can debate the merits of books they have read. We use the internet all the time. Customers can e-mail us and expect a personal response within minutes, something the large chains and Amazon's robots can never offer. The most interesting aspect of the report was that they highlighted the importance of "owning the transaction". As a small bookshop we are able to respond to the needs of a local market and our customers in a way that bigger players would love to be able to. You get a lot more than "have a nice day" from Crockatt & Powell. This is something that publishers should value as our customers certainly do - they wouldn't shop here if they didn't. We see ourselves as a filter, a shop that helps people to cut the crap and find the great books they really want to read.
What really excites us at Crockatt & Powell are the new technologies that will soon make Print on Demand a realistic option for small retailers. One aspect that the report fails to address completely is the environmental benefits of POD. No more returns, no wasted paper or books being driven/shipped all over the world. POD would save the industry vast sums of money very quickly. We believe it is only a metter of time before it arrives.
I thought the report was rather too concerned with E-Books and an I-Pod for books. We are of the opinion that E-Books will always be of minority interest for students and geeks. Real, printed books have a beutiful simplicity that is impossible to replace entirely.
So there we go. They said a bookshop like ours would never work, that we would go under in a month. They were wrong. Now people laugh when we talk about publishing books ourselves. And we are going to do it. Our first title will be published next year...
The digital future is coming and we are going to be there.
I will go out on a limb and say it is Amazon and the large chains that have most to fear from a digital future...(Yes Amazon!)