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Please don't swear in the bookstore!
"Please Don't Swear in the Bookstore! A Discussion of E-readers, Part One"
written by Kasey Cox, for the Wellsboro Gazette; published August 19, 2011
A friend of mine who lives just outside Denver recently visited her nearby Borders bookstore, just after the July 18th announcement of Borders’ liquidation. She emailed me a poignant photo – not of mobs of people looking for rock-bottom prices, nor of employees packing up, but of a sign on the bathroom door. The sign read: NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS. TRY AMAZON.COM.
When we co-host our regular game nights at the bookstore, facilitator Julian Stam keeps the atmosphere family-friendly by asking that participants use G-rated language. In a spirit of fun, those who forget their tongues must do five push-ups for every infraction. Over the last year, as more bookstore visitors have mentioned their Kindles, we have considered instituting a similar policy as the no-swearing-at-game-night. When we hear potential customers say, “I bought that book for my Kindle,” we often reply – only half in jest – “please, don’t swear in the bookstore.”
People assume, then, that we as independent bookstore owners, are automatically and vehemently, against any form of e-reader. Certainly, there are reasons that bookstore owners may dislike the new electronic readers, or feel concerned about their effect on the publishing industry. Nevertheless, if you ask many people who make their living selling books what they think of the new trend of electronic books, you may be surprised at the answers you’d hear.
The American Booksellers’ Association (the “ABA”) is a national group, linking member independent bookstores for cooperative advocacy and education, so that these bookstores might continue to better serve their communities and foster the love of reading and books. Seeing the increased consumer demand for adding electronic books, or “e-books”, to the repertoire of ways to enjoy books, the ABA partnered with Google e-books to allow independent bookstores to sell e-books on member stores’ individual websites. In an article announcing this partnership launch in December of 2010, the ABA explained how “a Google eBook is a new form of cloud-based digital book that allows readers to access their libraries on almost any device from one single repository, regardless of where the e-book was purchased. ABA has partnered with Google because of its open and accessible platform, which allows ABA member bookstores to provide an easy way for their customers to discover, read, and buy e-books at competitive prices.”
Sam Droke-Dickinson, at Aaron’s Books, in Lititz, PA, explained it well in a recent newsletter to their customers. “[Independent bookstores have partnered with] Google eBooks [because they] can be viewed in any Web browser, through Google reading apps for multi-function devices, and most dedicated e-book devices, such as the Sony Reader and the Nook (but not the Kindle). The Kindle is a proprietary device made by Amazon. The only e-books that can be read on a Kindle are Kindle format books. Only Amazon sells Kindle format books, and [if you buy a Kindle] you will be restricted to buying your e-books for your Kindle e-reader ONLY from Amazon. As your local, independent bookstore, we would love to help you find the reading selections you'll enjoy most in any format — including e-books!” Google eBooks, as well as any other e-reading application or device, allows you more flexibility in your choices.
This article, then, is part one of a three-part series we’ll publish to help clarify this exciting, complicated, and confusing time of a huge leap forward in technology as a part of the publishing world. Certainly, as owners of an independent bookstore, we have biases. I’ll be as clear as possible about those biases and our reasoning for them, beyond the obvious reason of wanting to preserve our business model. In my next article, I’ll address frequently asked questions about the differences between e-readers and other electronic devices; the differences between the variety of e-readers available; and the pros and cons of electronic books. Our hope is that you’ll follow this series of articles, share the information with your friends and family, and join in a discussion of the many changes and options available to us as e-readers and e-books join the repertoire of ways to enjoy reading.
Paper or plastic? Tell Hobo your opinions on electronic readers versus paper books, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to scroll through Hobo’s electronic archives? Follow his blog at frommyshelf.blogspot.com, or follow him on facebook at www.facebook.com/kcbookstore. Hobo tried to take his Nook in his little hobo sack, because it was lighter than taking a bunch of books, but it got wet when he fell in the pond. Read all about it in Hobo’s book, “Hobo Finds a Home” – proudly not available on the Kindle.