news

How The Book Business is Coping with Coronavirus

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Credit: Publisher’s Weekly

Coronavirus is upending nearly every industry on Earth.

The book industry isn’t immune. It’s been crazy to see such a sudden shift in consumer behavior (mandated or self-imposed) over just the past few weeks here in the USA and through news reports around the world. I’m very thankful for my Kindle, and I made sure to grab a new book from my local indie bookstore before it was forced to shut down this week.

Jim Millot over at Publisher’s Weekly wrote this fascinating article on how the publishing industry, which is notoriously slow to change and adapt, has been forced to adjust. Especially around live events and their love/hate relationship with Amazon who is (rightfully) focusing on inventory of basic necessity items for customers.

There is also a major toll on brick & mortar book sellers, especially the 800 lb. gorilla Barnes&Noble who were already teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

I’m not sure what will happen with this situation, but it has made one thing very apparent to me.

Books are one of the single most well-engineered pieces of information and entertainment. No wifi, electricity, or connectivity needed. It’s no wonder they are still going strong after centuries.

 

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Barnes & Noble To Be Like Indie Bookstores

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Credit: Bloomberg.com

I’ve written previously about the painfully slow demise of Barnes & Noble, and their continued attempts at transformation. It seems pretty obvious, at least when I step into my local stores, that they need to down-size and stop selling toys & games. A book store should focus on selling books. Or is that insanity?

Their new CEO and cut-throat hedge fund owners seem to think this is the right move as well, and in a new article over at Bloomberg it appears that B&N will be turning another corner and trying to mimic independent bookstores. The same type of stores they spent many years putting out of business. Oh, the irony…

I’m torn over this.

I dislike Barnes & Noble, but I dislike Amazon more, for a variety of reasons. That, and at some point B&N stopped instructing their employees to aggressively engage customers about add-ons during every purchase. This was also a good move, because while I’ll never begrudge someone for doing their job, it was just obnoxious trying to buy a $5 paperback and getting the “hard sell” at the register.

I can only imagine my local Barnes and Noble will relocate from the massive shopping mall it currently inhabits, in an attempt to reduce square footage. This would be a good thing as well. I’d prefer to see a more intimate store with some character, and more importantly the flexibility to shelve interesting titles. An emphasis on customer service would be nice too.

Oh and please, PLEASE just finally kill off the Nook. Please. It’s getting sad at this point.

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2019 Blog Round-Up and Top Posts

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It’s been another great year in the weird little corner of the internet known as Suburban Syntax.

We got a fresh look and face lift just in time for Halloween. We started talking a little more about film photography along with our primary subject of writing. And last, but certainly not least, we got a LOT of brand new readers and followers! That might mean YOU!

First off, thank you to everyone who drops by and reads these posts, discusses them in the comments, and shares them around. “Suburban Syntax” isn’t something I do for financial gain (does anyone make money blogging these days?) so it’s seeing regular faces drop by and discuss posts that really keeps me coming back and updating it on the semi-regular. You rock, and I hope you stick around.

Adding Photography

Aftering purchasing and inheriting some film cameras this year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the interest my posts about film photography have garnered. It’s definitely a niche art form at this point, which is re-growing after bottoming out in the early 2K’s. I’m by no means a great photographer, but it’s an extremely fun hobby to dabble in, and I’m happy to have cross-over with film photo readers – many of whom I’ve begun following to learn more about the craft and cool vintage equipment.

Top Posts

It’s always fun to run the numbers and see which posts were everyone’s favorites.

For 2019, here’s what everyone was reading

Kodak Gold 200 Film Discontinued?

My film folks were in effect. Maybe it was the click-bait-y ? I threw in the title, or the promise of an adventure through local Walgreen’s pharmacies, but this post BLEW UP. It was the best performer by far, ever when it posted a little later in the year.

How to Draft Short Stories

Hot on Kodak’s heels was this short guide on how to draft short stories. This one even got re-posted around the interwebs in a couple places, which was flattering. It’s nice to think that other people might take my advice when it comes to penning short fiction.

Thoughts on Self-Publishing in 2019

In 3rd place was my speculation/opinions on the changing landscape of self-publishing. Authors prefer you call it “Indie” now, but I am stubborn. Scouring a few articles from industry-types that are much more qualified than I am, it seems like a few of my predictions were correct, and things are definitely trending in a certain way. I’m very curious to see what the new decade brings in terms of author’s being able to get traction for their work through the self-publishing route.

What’s Ahead in 2020?

To close this out, I’d like to give a quick teaser on a few of the things I plan to focus on for the blog in 2020.

  • GUEST POSTS – I love guest posts (and guest posting!) so I am hoping to get some other writers in here to voice their opinions on writing and/or photography
  • NEWS POSTS – I make it a point to create “evergreen” content, but it seems like people enjoy the occasional timely “news” post too. I plan to tackle some of those with my own editorial spin on them
  • PHOTOS & REVIEWS – I’m going to continue expanding the photo-related postings where I can, but I’ve been VERY lax about book reviews. I’d like to get back in the saddle of reviewing books, and perhaps cameras and film too.

Thanks again to everyone who is my audience. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to an entering an exciting new decade with you in the  coming weeks!

-BLD

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The Future of Barnes & Noble

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Barnes & Noble Sold

I just heard that Barnes & Noble was sold to Elliot, a venture capital firm that also owns the U.K. bookseller Waterstones.

I have had a tenuous, love/hate kind of relationship with B&N, and have blogged about it in the past. I’m not a fan of the way Barnes & Noble annihilated numerous other book retailers and mom&pop shops through the late 1990’s and 2K’s (similar to Blockbuster Video), but it’s nice to have an option besides Amazon if my local indie book seller can’t get what I want. Plus, I’m still one of those weirdos who reads “enthusiast magazines” and B&N is literally the only brick and mortar retailer I know who stocks a variety of those.

Venture capital firm purchases are almost always dicey, but at least B&N will still exist.

What I’d like to see happen

  • Get some personality: The pitch is a more “decentralized” model where the individual stores have a bit more autonomy. I think this is a great idea, and knowing some actual real-life B&N employees, I think its for the best. I have three Barnes & Noble in my general vicinity, and the one that does best allows its workers to inject personality and unique style into the space. It makes the place feel a bit more like a large indie book store, and feels inviting.
  • Re-focus on books: Get rid of the toys, games, Funko Pop figurines, and all that other junk, and add a wider selection of things to read! I’m still all for book-related gifts like Moleskines, bookmarks, and reading lights. That’s fine. But if I want vinyl I’ll go to a record store. Give me a horror and expanded literature section.
  • Kill the Nook: Just do it. Please. Put the thing into the landfill with all those copies of “E.T.” for the Atari.
  • Engage local reading and and writing communities: More local author readings, more book clubs, more big names stopping in on their book tours. All of it. Give readers a reason to drop by.

Better Than Nothing

I’m still a proponent of local independent bookstores over Barnes & Noble (support your local indie!) but it’s better than having no stores at all. Amazon is just the coldest experience possible. No tactile feel, no page whoosh, no book smell.

I guess we’ll see what the future holds for Barnes & Noble, and I hope it’s a turn for the better.