I was read some articles from the New York Times online when I clicked onto this piece by David Streitfeld. It seems to dovetail with this blog a bit. I am not at all saying that people should only buy books online. I believe that a book scout or collector can only really do their job by physically handling their "prey", if you will.
But I also understand why someone sitting at home with a computer and internet access can click a few times and have a book in their mailbox a few days later. It depends on what the customer needs and wants. If he/she wants to go to a bookstore, they will. If they want a specific book at the cheapest possible price, then that's what they will do as well. The age of the general bookstore might be over. A bookstore needs to specialize. The internet has changed the rules, all the rules, of commerce in a bit less than a decade. It's the reality of the situation.
We ought not wring our hands in woe but figure out how to use technology to enhance not only our book buying endeavors but also the logic behind publishing (for those of us who are more than book collectors, but also PUBLISHERS)
There's a glut of stuff out there now. Anyone with a computer and the proper software and a printer can make their own book......the question then becomes, 'but should they?'
There are infinitely more books than time to read them all. Most people spend more time in front of their flat screen TVs or in front of their computers than reading a book anymore and yet each year there are more and more titles coming out. GLUT!
Who can read them all? Who can afford to buy them all? People can't. They buy what interests them. Each person has a niche of interests that booksellers can't possibly know so they shotgun blast us with a bit of everything when we don't necessarily want a bit of everything. If I primarily read poetry and postmodern fiction, for example, don't bother telling me about the new biography of a former President of the United States - because I DON'T CARE. I didn't decide to publish that thing, you (mr. publisher) did, so you have to figure out how to promote and sell it to a society overwhelmed with information and entertainment options. Maybe publishers should have cut back on the number of titles they released each year a long time ago, but as a publisher I understand the logic involved in more and more books being published every year. It's just that the bell curve of books in print and the bell curve of reduced attention span have collided somewhere along the Information Superhighway and no one is calling for the paramedics.