In the mid- to late 1990s, when online bookselling was in its infancy, Barnes & Noble and Borders were busy expanding their empires, often opening stores adjacent to long-established community bookstores... The death toll tells the tale. Two decades ago, there were about 4,000 independent bookstores in the United States; only about 1,900 remain. And now, even the victors are imperiled. The fate of the two largest US chain bookstores—themselves partly responsible for putting smaller stores to the sword—is instructive: Borders declared bankruptcy in 2011 and closed its several hundred stores across the country, its demise benefiting over the short term its rival Barnes & Noble, which is nonetheless desperately trying to figure out ways to pay the mortgage on the considerable real estate occupied by its 1,332 stores across the nation...Much more at the The Nation.
The bookstore wars are over. Independents are battered, Borders is dead, Barnes & Noble weakened but still standing and Amazon triumphant. Yet still there is no peace; a new war rages for the future of publishing. The recent Justice Department lawsuit accusing five of the country’s biggest publishers of illegally colluding with Apple to fix the price of e-books is, arguably, publishing’s Alamo. What angered the government wasn’t the price, but the way the publishers seemed to have secretly arranged to raise it...
Amazon’s entry into publishing’s traditional casino is a sideshow. More worrisome, at least over the long term, is the success of Amazon’s Kindle Single program, an effort to encourage writers to make an end run around publishers, not only of books but of magazines as well... For me, the problems become worse as Amazon moves from ‘just’ being a big player in selling books to vertical control of entire sections of the industry. It all gets a bit Big Brother. It’s easy to imagine Amazon muscling existing publishers out of the picture altogether and inviting authors and agents to deal directly with them. What would that do for the richness and diversity of our culture?”
03 June 2012
The power of Amazon
From an essay at The Nation: