I don’t really make serious resolutions for the new year. Mostly because I’ve learned over the years that if something is important enough for me to be willing to change my behavior or to work hard on or for, the coming of a new year is going to be irrelevant to my engagement in the task — it usually takes some other motivation or kick in the pants, not merely the turning of a calendar’s page. And the usual resolutions (eat better, go to the gym, etc.) all die after a month, so why pretend that this year will be any different?
My one resolution-ish thought was to make an effort to be more positive about what I read and the publishing industry. After all, there are books that I love reading, and what would it hurt to focus on the things I love about books rather than the things that irritate me?
But apparently the gods are laughing at me or karma is a bitch or something. Instead of the year’s opening SBD being positive, about the first read of the year, it’s a cranky piece on bookselling. Or rather, not selling me books.
Exhibit #1: My unused $50 Barnes & Noble gift certificate
After thinking carefully about which new paper books I might want to bring into my house in light of my ongoing but very slow purge, I had a short list of three to look for at Barnes & Noble. All either released within the last month or reissued recently as part of a linked media campaign. How many did I find on the shelves? None of them. When I checked at the service desk, the bookseller kindly offered to order them for me. Thanks but no, the whole point of coming to the store was to leave with books in hand, otherwise I would have ordered them online myself. (Except, wait, if I order them online, it will be from Amazon, because they are lower priced and ship for free and faster. Lost sale for you, B&N. Although I guess not really, since you’ve already got the money for the gift card I’d planned to use.)
Instead I drank tea and ate a muffin, then wandered around forlornly. For a moment, I thought I might end up leaving with a book in hand — as I walked by the sports section, I remembered that there were two Borg/McEnroe rivalry bio-type books published this past year (High Strung by Steve Tignor and Epic by Matt Cronin). Unfortunately, neither was in stock. Even the post-holiday clearance wasn’t tempting and the remaindered books were blah.
Exhibit #2: the price of ebooks
Okay, look, as a consumer, I don’t care about the publisher’s costs or margins, in the same way that I don’t care about a grocer’s; I care about price and quality of the good/product. And I also am tired of hearing about how the costs don’t change for ebooks because all the infrastructure is still needed. That’s a sunk cost on the publisher’s part, and I refuse to believe that it is as expensive (or more) to produce an ebook than it is to produce a paper one. So when I see that a book that is $7.99 in paper (with a 10% or more discount if I buy it in-store, assuming it’s in stock — which it wasn’t) is also $7.99 in e-format, that book drops lower on my TBB list, no matter how well-reviewed it is.
And seeing something like this is just enough to drive me crazy — it’s cheaper to buy the paper book and have it shipped to my door than to buy the ebook. Another lost sale.
Once again I am left wondering: does Barnes & Noble want to sell me books? Do publishers? Do they want my business at all? Amazon seems to want my business in most cases, so I’m left wondering who set that ebook price. Eh, maybe I’ll remember to check for a paper copy later. Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library. Or maybe the book will sit on my wishlist and eventually be forgotten in the flood of other potential reads out there.