Thursday, February 08, 2007

Another one bites the dust

Old news, for the most part, and with the umpteenth unwelcome citing of Chris Anderson's "Long Tail" theorem for the requisite academic flavoring, but still worth a read.
THIS is the paradox of modern bookselling. Even in an entertainment-saturated age, people still buy books. But the casual reader has many other places to get bestsellers and topical books, from warehouse stores to the mall. Meanwhile, book nuts — the ones who simply must buy several volumes a week — are lured online. Few businesses can survive that lose customers from both ends of the spectrum.

In 1995, anyone seeking a book that was the least bit uncommon had to have a store special order it from the publisher. If it was out of print, the would-be reader needed to trudge to the local secondhand shop, which would run a classified advertisement in AB Bookman's Weekly, a magazine that circulated among book dealers. It was a hit-or-miss proposition.

AB Bookman's Weekly went out of business in late 1999, an early Internet casualty. There are now half a dozen major Internet search engines that specialize in books. On one of them,, there are 44 copies of "The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop."

It's hard for any single used bookstore to compete against this bounty, just as it's impossible for any shop carrying new books to rival the electronic plenitude of Amazon. Because the Internet retailer doesn't have to pay rent for display space or charge sales tax, its books are almost invariably cheaper too.

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