We’ve taken the plunge, with the help of Google eBooks, to begin selling e-books on our website. Is this a good idea, or a bad idea? Only time will tell. My naive self thinks it could be a win-win, but the cynic in me thinks it could be the beginning of the slow and painful death of brick and mortar stores.
The hopeful in me thinks that my customers who have e-readers will now buy their e-books from me. Thereby, shopping local for their e-readers. It needs to be stated that only customers without Kindles can buy e-books from me. Kindle owners will continue to frequent Amazon and that could have more of a negative effect on the stability of physical stores than anything else. (This is a discussion for another day.) I should say, a lot of my e-book reading customers continue to buy physical books. They split their book purchases half and half with their e-readers and the book. These are the customers I think we’ll get to buy e-books, and these are customers who up till today, haven’t been buying e-books from me. I can’t help but feel that being able to buy e-books from their trusted indie might garner more e-book sales than I think.
The cynic in me thinks too many people are now reading e-books, that a physical store might become unnecessary, and my selling the e-book is just contributing to my own demise. It’s a tricky situation. But to not offer e-books seems like I’m forcing customers to leave my store to buy their e-books.
No one knows what’s going to happen in a year, or five. I can’t imagine that bookstores will become obsolete. There are too many people who don’t have e-readers, or interest in them, that I think the need to hold a book will always remain. My fear is that the twenty somethings, who love their technology, will always want e-readers. And then there the kids who are growing up wired to everything and might not have the affection for the physical book as most adults who grew up with books do now. I wonder what four-year-olds, who might be playing with e-book apps, are going to feel about physical books when they have their own disposable income.
So, I’m standing on the precipice of a new bookselling age. I have been obsessively checking my website to see if I’ve sold any e-books. It’s only been four hours, and so far, I haven’t sold any.
There is for sure one up-side to customers being able to buy e-books from me: fewer awkward moments at the supermarket when a customer confesses that the reason they haven’t been into the store for a year is because they’re reading books on their iPad.