A post by Dennis Johnson for Melville House bemoans the mass closings of Barnes and Noble (B&N) stores across the US. Within the last 30 days or so, Johnson points out, B&N locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas (two), Austin, and Manhattan have shut down. Ebook sales likely had a significant role in B&N’s decision to close those locations, which is interesting as brick-and-mortar book stores foster ebook sales.
The practice of “showrooming” — seeing a thing before buying it — affects buying behavior. Specifically, customers are more likely to buy an ebook after seeing its physical counterpart in a store. David Streitfeld noted this behavior for the New York Times in December 2012, in reference to the shutdown of Borders:
“Another, more counterintuitive possibility is that the 2011 demise of Borders, the second-biggest chain, dealt a surprising blow to the e-book industry. Readers could no longer see what they wanted to go home and order. ‘The print industry has been aiding and assisting the e-book industry since the beginning,’ said [Michael Norris, a Simba Information analyst who follows the publishing industry].”
Another survey suggested that 40% of the people who buy books online looked at them in a bookstore first.
Ebooks might become my “old man sticking point.” The appeal of a toting a library on a device the size of a magazine isn’t lost on me, but I’d rather read a paper book any day.