With Borders closing stores and Barnes & Noble committing more space to the Nook, publishers are looking to independents to ensure the tradition of spontaneous discovery, a passer-by spotting a new release in the window or a browser finding an old paperback on a shelf.
“Independents are going to be OK, I genuinely feel,” says David Young of Hachette. “We care about the all physical stores, and that includes the chains, because they’re our showrooms. It’s a good term and one at the moment you can’t replicate online.”
Independents are not ignoring e-books. Around 250 have signed with Google and its e-book store, which opened last December and which Vlahos of the booksellers association praised as a valuable addition. Synonymous with Internet searching, Google has positioned itself as a bridge between different kinds of devices and retailers, a peacemaker on the e-battlefield.
Some publishers and booksellers would like more noise, though. Brian Murray of HarperCollins says he’s disappointed with Google sales, which even Google acknowledges have been small so far. At an information session hosted by Google, booksellers questioned the company’s aversion to advertising.
Google’s director of strategic partnerships, Tom Turvey, says that spending “lots and lots” of money on ads was unlikely. But he noted that the store was relatively new and was confident that sales would increase as more readers learned about it, whether online, through an e-book device or through the bookstores promoting it. Michael Norris of Simba criticized Google for not having “thought out their e-book strategy all the way through.” But Turvey said the Google store was evolving as planned.
“My entire team comes from the book business,” says Turvey, a former director of online sales and marketing at HarperCollins. “We understand the issues extremely well.”
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