End Of Days For Bookstores? Not If They Can Help It : NPR

I have been reading a lot more in the past few years, in part due to the text-to-speech capabilities of my Kindle, in part due to the convenience of having a collection of Emily Dickinson poetry or a Sherlock Holmes anthology on my iPod Touch when I find myself in a line somewhere, and in part due to the fact that I keep bringing home bookshelves. (I just put a hutch on my daughter’s desk, and a 6-foot bookshelf for my son’s room is my next project.)  After spending months reading the whole Lord of the Rings series to my kids at bedtime (with the lights off, reading from the screen of my iPod Touch), I’m now reading my daughter from tree-ware copies of Wild Boy
(fourth in the five-book Rowan Hood “Daughter of Robin Hood” series), and last night my daughter asked me to start re-reading a sweet little story called No Flying in the House. Physical books are still a big part of my life, but when I have the choice, for teaching, or for my own reference, I opt for an ebook.

I like the ubiquity of the Amazon reader, but I don’t like the closed format. I was thrilled the other day when I used various software tools to create my own e-book in epub format, a standard format that plays well with iBooks.  (I may make a reader, or distribute my syllabus and sample papers for students to mark up that way. We’ll see.)

So, while I was not thrilled with Google’s new e-reader app (due to its lack of highlighting, annotation, and an integrated dictionary), I was very interested in Google’s business plan. Just as Google’s Android phone tacked Apple’s lock on both hardware and services for the iPhone, Google’s online bookstore aims to break up the lock that Amazon has over its online store and content. So Google’s bookstore may pave the way for creative independent booksellers to survive by innovating.

“It’s really hard for me to be sympathetic to the chains,” says
Elaine Petrocelli, the co-owner of Book Passage in San Francisco. She’s
been in the business since the 1970s, and has not forgotten when a chain
store moved into her neighborhood and almost put her out of business.

The
most recent threat to bookstores like Petrocelli’s is the emergence of
the e-book and Amazon’s dominance of the market with its e-reader, the
Kindle. So Petrocelli was heartened by the news that Google will make it
possible for independent bookstores to sell e-books from their
websites.

“I think it gives us a chance,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a panacea, but I think it gives us a chance.”

Petrocelli views e-books as a new marketing challenge, especially now that she can sell them herself.

“I
think that it’s possible that the Kindle could turn into the Betamax,”
she says. “That’s my nasty wish, because they won’t share with other
people. You need to buy your book through Amazon in order to use your
Kindle. [On] all of the other readers you can work with the Google
editions [of the books], and so I think that’s going to be the next
thing.”

NPR, Fresh Air