A day or three ago, I started to see some interesting signs on social media. Comments about the big ebook distributor, Draft 2 Digital. Then I saw the actual link, and boy, did it catch my attention. I’m afraid I waxed rather sarcastic in my initial comments about the whole thing in private. I shouldn’t, really. It’s just that… It’s complicated, and it goes back a long time.
I grew up in an era when there were no Barnes & Nobles stores. Now, they existed. According to their site, they have existed since the nineteenth century, and they have been in expansion mode since shortly before I was born, having been the first bookstore to advertise on television in 1974. But I was not aware of them, because I didn’t live in any urban centers, or indeed, for a large portion of my formative years, within several hundred miles of any bookstores. Bookstores, to a kid like I was, were therefore rare and magical places. It was there that the fringes of Nirvana could be tasted. Titles you’d been hunting for in the tiny local library could be found, for a price. New books glistened and gleamed on the racks. I was an adult before I could walk into a bookstore and be able to walk out with an armful of books. By then, most of the Indie bookstores had lost the battle. There were two bookstores in my neck of the woods in northern New England: Borders, and Barnes & Nobles. Borders was closer to us. Then they were gone, and there was only one.
Now, there’s an ominous sucking sound. It’s distant, but if you read this initial announcement from D2D about the royalty situation, I think you’ll hear it. In case of internet memoryholes, I’m including a screenshot of that here as well.
Yep, you read that right. B&N, through their online Nook marketplace, isn’t paying it’s authors. Or not much, anyway. Oh, they say they will, and they say this is only temporary. But I really have to wonder how they thought they were magically going to come up with that money in the future if they haven’t got it now. Peter Grant shared an article about the buyout and reshaping just last month. Just as everything was closing down, B&N was in turmoil and already closing stores to shrink it’s losses.
Now, a day later D2D had great news! Um… I’ll let you tell me what you think about this second announcement. Again, I grabbed a screenshot. I don’t want this to vanish when some bright bulb realizes just how much the spotlight of public awareness shows of the circle being made around the drain.
The explanation here is… strange. I know what I think about it, and why this update was made. Especially in light of this bit from Smashwords I caught from Dave Butler on social media.
Don’t get me wrong. I love bookstores. I’m not over here cackling maniacally as I see the looming demise of one. Not even though that one was a juggernaut who crushed all the others in it’s progress to the top.
I am sitting here wondering what the post-pandemic world holds in promise of bookshops. Will we see the Indies come back? Please?
I’m also sitting here wondering if this is a Very Bad Sign of things to come for independent publishers like myself. Even though I have put most of my work on Amazon’s KDP marketplace, it was more for ease and that’s where the money was. I’ve been waiting and watching for competition to come up. The Nook wasn’t it. The Nook has never been ‘it’ and I have known this from very early on, through some research I did back when I was a librarian. The Kindle was a better ereader for ease of use, and I knew that was going to make it win. Now that I don’t even need a dedicated ereader? It’s too late. My library is with Amazon. I still don’t like having all my eggs in one basket. If Barnes and Nobles slips down that drain to the end of all things, there will still be readers. There will still be readers like me, who like the smell and look of a bookstore. Last time I was in a B&N I briefly skimmed through the books, but I knew there wouldn’t be any I wanted to buy. Their selection was sucky. What I did buy was a drink and a pastry in the connected coffee cafe, so I could sit and write. Oh, and I bought a pen at the stationery section, which was ballooned to a quarter of the store in footprint versus bookspace. Because it was an art pen I wasn’t expecting to see there.
The ripples of the pandemic are just going to get bigger. We’re starting to see them turn into waves of change. My only hope is that they don’t keep amplifying into a tsunami.