Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Powell's Books

The venerable brand Powell's books is laying off staff. 31 today. In the veiled business-speak of the published memo, more are coming.

A bookstore that can't figure out how to sell books.

Just like Borders.

You think the record labels are behind the times? Bookstores think it's the 1400's. And why not? What's changed in their model since the invention of the printing press? They ship UPS now instead of horse and carriage?

That's what I find so ironic about authors and booksellers - they were the first to embrace all kinds of tech - word processing, digital typsetting, blogs - but just couldn't make the connection that blogs were replacing publishers. And authors today still want old deals. They want bookstores to stock their product but don't want to do the work of face-to-face promoting. Sound familiar?

Today's successful writers are having conversations. They spend as much time composing comments as the posts themselves. The inherent quality of their person shines through, and we become fans. We trust Barry Ritholtz and Calculated Risk more than The Fed, JimTheRealtor more than NAR. Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman produce tweets more interesting than most of the books in Powell's.

What do they need a middleman for?

Better question: What can bookstores do to bring nothing but the best?

In a world of rabid readers and an overwhelming volume of product... what a weird problem. Oversupply AND high demand?

But, its an oversupply of crap, and high demand for excellence. And few reliable filters.

Why aren't bookstores renting iPads for a few bucks an hour? I may not be able to afford an iPad, but an iTunes account is free and I can certainly afford a few bucks for Angry Birds and some eBooks. I'd hang out somewhere and buy overpriced coffee to play iPad games and read magazines....

Somebody's going to figure it out, matching outstanding writing with hungry readers.