In this age of digital disruption, book sellers and publishers are discovering that it’s not books themselves that are “dying,” but rather the old distribution models.
“Print has gone through seismic changes with Amazon and digital media, and bookstores have folded and many continue to struggle—both indies and chains alike,” writes David Haber, CEO at Bond Street. “But books, contrary to the perennial buzz that their doomsday approacheth, are not going anywhere, and readers still want special places where they can go to physically discover literature on their own, or with the help of some super knowledgeable book nerd (not an insult).”
“It’s not books or bookstores that are dying—it’s the old way of doing things,” he asserts.
Haber cites the failure of e-books to overtake print, and the rising print sales in the first half of last year as evidence. He continues, “Amazon is set to open a bookstore in Manhattan in addition to their other physical locations, a sign that brick-and-mortar is will resume its position as a significant space for readers.”
Haber interviewed Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson in Lower Manhattan, on how she’s created a successful print book business when the print book model was undergoing massive disruption. Her focus is on physical presence, a staff full of book experts (geeks? nerds?), and a carefully curated experience for discovery. It works.
“Her own commitment to books—as a fervent reader—is an example of why bookstores will never completely vanish,” Haber explains.
This is not just an indie phenomenon. Mass market title New York Magazine has signed a deal with Simon & Schuster for a new print book deal, according to Alexandra Steigrad in Women’s Wear Daily.
“New York Magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary in very erudite fashion — with a book deal,” Steigrad writes. “Actually, it’s for four books. (Apparently, New York isn’t signing on to that whole ‘print is dead’ belief.)”
“New York Magazine has produced some of the most exciting, vibrant and memorable journalism of our time,” said Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster. “Before there was such a thing as ‘viral’ stories, New York Magazine has started and defined the conversations we have about life in the city.”
As with McNally, the idea of a book comes down to physicality and a lasting presence.
“As editors, we already publish on the magazine page and in the digital universe, but we still sometimes feel as if certain stories demand more reach,” said David Haskell, New York Media’s editor for business and strategy. “This partnership with Simon & Schuster allows us to launch big projects knowing that they might have a future in the sturdy and tactile medium of the big, ambitious book.”
A future – that’s the key phrase we keep hearing about the print book industry. When the big box book stores disrupted the small indie shops, the distribution model underwent a massive shift. It happened again when Amazon knocked the big box stores upside the head. And now, a new disruption, as sellers connect with readers in smaller, intimate spaces again. Print, meanwhile, endures.
Through it all, one thing has remained: we are all print geeks at heart