Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change – Charles Darwin

When talking of changing publishing paradigms I mentioned independent booksellers and how the rapidly morphing publishing industry is affecting their business. I ran across a very interesting article, Evolve or Die: Why Reinvent Independent Bookstores? by Praveen Madan and Christin Evans, proprietors of the Booksmith in San Francisco. He relays some sobering statistics:
In 1993, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) had 4,700 member stores. By the start of 2009, the number had fallen to 1,600. We are seeing an average of about 200 independent bookstores close every year.
In order to compete in the new age of publishing, Indies need to evolve, as Darwin states, to survive with the times, or go extinct. Indies must struggle with key questions as they look to the future -- What business are they in? Who are their customers? and What are they competing for? Many indies are stuck in a time warp – quaint, dusty, technologically stagnant shops that haven’t changed much in decades (many, sadly to say have not utilized the internet wisely). While Indies have become frozen in time, consumer tastes, market realities and the competition have been marching on at warp speed.
Praveen and Christin are hopeful though – they feel that this is this is a time of great opportunity for Indies, in five key areas: Building literary communities and providing author services for writers; Enhancing the browsing experience of customers; Making print on demand books available; and by Tapping into new markets since only ½ of adult Americans read, that’s half the market left! So for Indies, Carpe Diem – do or die!

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