Bookstores are dead. Long live bookstores!

In the ever-increasing ebook market, bookstores seem to be as endangered as polar bears, and inspire the same amount of passionate response. Things are changing. It’s natural that some people will panic. But is that panic really warranted? I know that some see the closing of Borders bookstores as a huge sign that The End Is Near. But I think the end is only coming for huge chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Small independent bookstores will thrive because they cater to niche markets. And customers will probably like them more because they’re going to be specialized.

In a post last week, Nathan Bransford asked for advice to booksellers. Among the comments was a bookseller named Boon who wrote that their specialized bookstore didn’t cater to mass-market books and bestsellers, and is thriving because of it. And it is because their customers trust them to stock only books that they feel really good about. Sounds awesome right?

In Boon’s comment, the store employees were called “curators,” a feeling echoed in Nicole Krauss’ recent article for The New Republic. As the market changes and authors take more control, what will survive are the experts. So a bookstore like Boon’s is probably going to continue to do remarkably well. Even on the production end of things, things will change. On J.A. Konrath’s blog, he and Barry Eisler recently discussed why Eisler was walking away from 1/2 mil book deals. They argue that editors will move from publishing houses to agencies as author’s representatives will increasingly have more power than the publishing houses. I don’t think that this is necessarily true. I think some editors may be able to stand alone as authors will seek to hire them directly. Again, the experts will win out, because naturally some editors will be more coveted than others.

The business model is turning upside down. And there are going to be a few bumps and bruises along the way but nobody’s job is going to disappear. The ones in control are just going to be different. Imagine authors running their own publishing houses. And small booksellers with the power to really have an impact on books.

Honestly, if you’re a writer or an independent bookseller right now, this is probably the best time to be in this business.

[Photo by Ansgar Walk, available here.]

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