March 10, 2016

Don’t Call it a Comeback


Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every week, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

Publishing & Technology: Don’t Call it a Comeback

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be talking about the return of the independent bookstore, the potential return of the not-so-independent bookstore, and the settling of the e-book market.

Last week the New York Times published an article in its Media section titled “Why Barnes & Noble Isn’t Going Away Yet.” In this article, Alexandra Alter primarily credits Barnes & Noble’s diversification at the retail level for them having another “not-so-bad quarter.” But with the BBC reporting the very next day that Barnes & Noble are shutting down their UK digital storefront for the UK and essentially pulling out of the UK ebook market, it may be a bit early to call it a comeback.

The Beginning of the End for the Ebook?

In the Times article Alter goes on to give credit for Barnes & Noble’s “not-so-bad quarter,” and a larger resurgence for local independent book retailers, to a generally sagging overall ebook market, quoting Association of American Publishers’ statistics showing ebook sales dropping by a little over twelve percent in the first ten months of 2015 while paperback sales grew roughly the same amount.

The Return of the Local Bookstore?

Bookstores as a segment of the retail industry did see growth last year for the first time in eight years. Barnes & Noble closed less stores last year than they have since before the turn of the Millenium. Even independent bookstores have seen gains over the last five years adding just over 300 stores nationwide. But for all the good news, it still seems a bit early to declare a sea change, or anything resembling a return to the days before ebooks and the market dominance of a certain digital marketplace.

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