Monday, February 22, 2010

The Death of Print. The Death of Local.

Phone call from a local radio reporter who wanted to know how we were coping with Amazon, e-readers, Costco, the Olympics, "the death of print," skyrocketing retail rents & etc. "Just fine," I told her. "Sales at both stores are actually up over last year." Puzzled silence. There wasn't time to add much more, because the shop was busy and because actually helping customers and ringing up sales always beats yakking with the media. But if I'd had time I would have said that we plan to be here for the forseeable future, and that having a twenty, fifty, or hundred-year horizon for your business changes how you think about short-term problems. Eg., Should I order fifty copies of Greg Iles' latest thriller, the one that's heavily discounted at Costco and London Drugs and Wal-Mart, and which, six months from now, will be clogging up the sale table at Chapters, priced $4.99? Or should I order copies of The Invisible Committee's Coming Insurrection and all of Peavar and Volokhonsky's Russian translations, and everything in print by Italo Calvino? Viewed in this long-term light, bookselling looks less like a problem, and more like a set of ongoing opportunities.