A curiosity has been observed by several booksellers I've been speaking to of late. It seems regular and occasional customers alike, when asking simply, "how's business?" expect to hear doom and gloom on a more immediate scale relative to years past. There seems to be a more pronounced catch in the question as though it's almost impolite to ask, or that it has to be whispered to lessen the discomfort sure to come. There are many things that make running any small business a challenge, but the advent of the e-book is now seen to foretell for bookstores, if not the proverbial fat lady singing, at least a generously proportioned person clearing their throat.
Bookstores are going through interesting times, as are music, film, television and anything coming up against a hazily defined new digital age. It seems that all the old ways of delivering entertainment must adapt or die, but once that phrase is haughtily delivered on echo chambers everywhere, there seems little left to be said.
The news from BookNet Canada, the national organization that among other things, crunches industry numbers suggests that ebooks, rather than taking over-have plateaued. Indeed, the numbers seem to be falling back from their highs on January of 2012.
"Digital sales peaked at an estimated 17.6 per cent of the book market in the first quarter of 2012 before sinking to 12.9 per cent in the last quarter of the year," said the Globe and Mail last week.
None of this is to suggest that ebooks are a fad, or that sunnier days are ahead for bookstores, publishers, etc., but it's refreshing to see real numbers suggesting that just maybe, we're not all done for quite yet.
This brings me to the good people of Hard Case Crime who, after years of bringing back the pulp novel, have scored Stephen King's new book Joyland, out today. This is notable insofar as this is King's second book with the upstart press, but it's also only available as a paperback.
Just like the good old days.