400 Bookstores to Close by End of 2009

From The Book Blog:

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that analysts expect an avalanche of bookstore closings this year. A new report by Grant Thornton report says 10,000 retail stores will have closed by the end of 2009. Of that number, 400 will be bookstores, which is a 500% increase in bookstore closings since last year. Bookstores are just part of the ugly retail picture, as consumers have put the brakes on spending.

 

Should Newspapers Really be Saved?

Some months ago I was invited (about a dozen times) to join the "Don’t Let Newspapers Die" cause on Facebook. Most of the well-meaning folks who invited me to the cause were, in fact, people in the newspaper industry with whom I have worked for many, many years. As a nearly 20-year veteran of the business, I can forgive my Facebook friends for assuming that I would be interested in preserving the newspaper industry as it exists today, and as it has existed for the bulk of my career.

It was with a not-so-heavy heart that I silently ignored the pleas for my participation in this particular cause.

Why? Because information gathering and reporting, like any other human industry, must be allowed to change and evolve with the technologies and the demands of the times.

We no longer live in an era when the common man, he who puts his nose to the grindstone every day just to feed his family, is restricted to digesting a filtered, dumbed-down hashing of the day’s events with his breakfast bagel or his evening meal. News delivery today is consumer-participatory. We read it, we digest it, we "tweet" it, and we do not necessarily glean what we regurgitate from traditional sources.

The print newspaper business must evolve if it is to remain a viable information utility. To date, it has been the slowest overall of the more traditional news reporting sources to successfully leverage the Internet in the daily lives of news junkies. Granted, it’s had more to overcome. Flipping on the television or radio and sponging the news in spoken or visual form is still easier than putting it together yourself from various blogs, feeds, and editorial content online, even with technologies like RSS and social media sites.

Let’s look at it this way: no one hires a scribe to manually copy, translate, and distribute documents anymore. Why? Because Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing and the printing press. Even as far back as the 1400s, technology was changing the way news was delivered.

And then there were newsboys, who are famous in American history for shouting headlines on street corners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to sell papers. Word-of-mouth, in fact, was one way newspapers managed to attract readers and subscribers throughout the ages. "Did you read that story in the…?" was most often the phrase that led to more eyeballs on a particular column.

These days, there’s nary a newsboy to be found and no one uses movable type printing anymore. Why? Because we have desktop publishing applications that make it simple to put words on a page, and we have television, radio, blogs, advertising, social media, and a host of other means of spreading word-of-mouth.

Now fast-forward to 1997, when Matt Drudge "revolutionized" online newsgathering by becoming one of the first aggregated news sites on the Web to both make news and break major political scandal. Suddenly, people were turning to the Internet in droves to read news from sources that were not ABC, NBC, CBS, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. What Drudge did was successfully break a Newsweek work-in-progress on the Internet. Although it wasn’t Drudge who uncovered the story, his action on it was the very beginning of what would become the medium accused of destroying the newspaper.

For years, I’ve heard that craigslist is killing print media because of free online classifieds, and that bloggers are killing print media because they have become the new, true "community" journalists, that they are performing original local reporting rather than just spilling something from the Associated Press into an empty hole every day.

In the end, though, it is up to the newspaper to maintain (and build) its readership, and not up to craiglist, bloggers, twitterers, or whatever the next generation of newsgatherer becomes, to protect the old gray print media from wasting away to nothing.

Should traditional print media go the way of the dinosaur? Absolutely. It should evolve.

Intensely Local Magazines Resist Recession Slump

Forbes.com interviews Larry Platt, chief of Philadelphia and Boston magazines on why local-centric publications have fared much better during the recession than their broader-based advertising competition.

City magazines have suffered surprisingly little damage during the recession. Of the nearly 100 members of the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA), only two have closed in 2009, the group reports. Drops in city magazine ad pages this year hover in the high teens, half that of some national magazines (though major market titles, like New York and Los Angeles have been harder hit).

Hide and Seek

Every would-be novelist, self-help author, or poet has the occasional dream of fame and fortune.

You get your book into bookstores, put it out there on amazon.com, and voila! you have an instant bestseller and get to spend your afternoons strolling with Stephen King.

Not so much.

What few writers realize in the beginning is that when you publish a book, whether traditionally or self-publishing, you are starting a business. That business is you: the words you write, the opinions you publish, and the entertainment you provide. You are a seller in a marketplace that is positively flooded with other sellers.

So how do you get yourself noticed?

It’s a question I’m asking myself as I craft the first draft of my first novel. I do not think it’s too early to start considering a marketing plan. And these days, one of the least expensive and most effective means of marketing oneself is via online social networking and the Internet.

Here’s a great “how I did it” post by a new start-up SEO company (and friend of mine) that I found enlightening.

On the day I gave notice at my previous employer, I knew that I would need to have a web presence ready to go before the day I was actually out on my own, both for explaining to people what I was doing and for SEO reasons. I gave notice on Monday, July 27th, 2009. I gave the customary two weeks, so my last day in the office would be Friday, August 7th. more…

We Are Borg

At first I thought it might be an April Fool’s joke, but it turns out that Amazon.com really is asking print-on-demand publishers to use their BookSurge POD facilities in order to sell their print-on-demand products at Amazon.com.

Until this, print-on-demand publishers were using their own facilities or able to outsource their printing needs for whatever cost was effective for them. Now, in order to sell on the world’s largest Internet bookstore, POD publishers must agree to use the Amazon facilities at Amazon’s prices.

Amazon says POD publishers are free to continue to use their own facilities to print their books, but they must provide a minimum number of books to Amazon to warehouse if they do it that way. POD publishers outside of BookSurge are also free to use Amazon’s printing only for PODs sold on Amazon.com, but use their own for PODs sold anywhere else.

What will the fallout of all this be? A few uninformed guesses/predictions that I do hope are wrong:

1. Print-on-demand services will up their printing prices for the inconvenience of having to split their production methods in order to sell products on Amazon.com.

2. BookSurge will build a larger POD customer base because it can afford to charge POD authors less than other publishers to sell an author’s POD work at Amazon.com.

3. Within five years, someone younger, fresher, and with innovative new ideas will find a way to break Amazon’s stranglehold, selling POD books faster, cheaper, and to a wider audience.

Well, No. 3 could just be fanciful optimism on my part.

To Publish or Self-Publish

Recently, while thinking about some work I’d done on a new
project I’m working on, I happened upon an article about writing a
novel in 100 days or less.

There’s a great amount of good advice in there, especially for the
first-time novelist. But along about the last 10 days of his process, I
started wondering how long ago the article was written, and why there’s
no mention of on-demand printing and self-publishing as options for the
first-timer.

In a little less than a decade, the Internet changed the world, in both the way we communicate and the way we conduct business, especially in the world of publishing.

Newspapers (particularly their classifieds) are struggling with the
freedom websites like CraigsList provide. People no longer have to pay
a person on the phone, who may or may not be able to spell, money to
print their ad for a single time in a product fewer and fewer people
are bothering to pick up.

Likewise, there once was a time when a writer could spend months or
even years of his life working on his craft, his masterpiece, and it
was up to an editor or an agent to determine whether the book was
“worth” the risk and cost of printing to the publisher, to try in
advance to guess how well it would sell.

The article above goes so far as to even suggest what type of bag to
carry around your printed manuscript in and things to do and think
about while you’re struggling to get your work represented by an agent
or accepted by a publisher.

These days, though, we have lulu.com, createspace.com, booksurge.com,
eBook/PDF-creation tools, and gigabytes upon gigabytes of cheap Web
space. Indeed, these days if you want to get your words out there for
the world to read, it’s much easier than relying on an agent or an
editor to decide for you whether the public will ever get the
opportunity.

Of course, easier opportunity still does not guarantee that the public will bite and read your work, and there is the expense of actually marketing your work to consider, which traditional publishers perform well.

Still, if you’re like me, you’re writing because it’s something you
like to do, and you’re publishing just because you want to get your
work out there, and not necessarily to make a living off it.

Back to work.

When Comic Books Were Under Attack

I’ll probably order this book because I find its subject interesting: the interference of government in freedom of expression/creative freedom.

When comic books were under attack (AP)

AP – "The Ten-Cent Plague" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 334 pages. $26), by David Hajdu: Hey, Kids! Dad was an abusive drunk, mom had a public boyfriend and angelic, blond-haired little Lucy hated them all.

[Yahoo! Books and Publishing News]