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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Writer's lament ...part XIVXILLX: The downward spiral of book and mortar bookstores

by J.R. Wagner

So I was strolling through the bookstore (I won't mention the name)  the other day and wandered into the YA section as I always do to scope out the competition and have come to the following conclusion:

There is a reason why big chain bookstores are failing...and it isn't just because Ebooks are forcing them to close up shop.

The first thing I noticed is that, with the exception of the YA section, which is growing, every other section is shrinking.  Good for YA readers, bad for everyone else. The toy department (yep, toys) is taking over the real estate once owned by books.

Even within YA there are some disturbing trends.

First is the lack of selection. They've got YA broken down into Paranormal Romance, which gets most of the real estate when compared to the other sections. Then there is YA fiction, YA non-fiction and YA fantasy.

When looking at the books within each section I felt like I was reading the same synopsis -just a different cover for nearly every book.  It's that bad.

On a quick side note, is anyone else eternally annoyed that when visiting a bookstore, the place where the YA books are found is labeled YA or Young Adult but if you drill through genre in Barnes and Noble or Amazon, the YA section is nowhere to be found. You have to navigate through teens and then to the genre...books --- Teens---Science Fiction and Fantasy ---Fantasy.  Annoying isn't it?

Back on topic...the downsizing of book real estate and the lack of unique stories within genres;

Why is this happening?

I think publishers are afraid to take chances. Like Hollywood, they're relying on what's currently working (making money -think of all the comic-book to film releases lately) rather than gambling with something new and different.  Even if that something has been done over and over and over. They're relying on riding the trend wave rather than taking a risk on something new, unique and profound.

The publishers are afraid because their very industry stands on tenuous ground. The agents are afraid because the publishers are afraid and meanwhile they're digging their own graves by serving up an offering of the same story in different packaging with a slightly different twist and, as a result,  losing the interest of the reader.  Most of the cover designs are similar within each sub-genre because, god forbid, what if the book stands out?

Is it too late?

For most bookstores, I believe it is.  Most don't have the cojones to take the risks necessary to turn things around and most are too blind to see that if they don't take the risks, they're going to fail anyway.

Some will survive. Indie bookstores with a strong, unique business model.

I hope I'm wrong...but the odds are not in their favor (sorry Effie)


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In bookstores now

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