Small booksellers are trying a new tactic: positive thinking. (Is this one of those “The Secret” things?) Either Nathan Whitlock or Nathaniel Whitmore, depending on whether you read the wee intro or byline , writes about the future of bookselling (ack). Even the big box stores were asked, with a straight face, no less, about how they feel about the future. Inclusive!
Pessimism is often thought to be bred right into the genes of booksellers, who, after all, often watch helplessly as their charmingly shabby neighbourhoods go upscale, dragging rents up with them, or as the building they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining is rendered obsolete by behemoth online retailers who need never worry about either leaky plumbing or unsold stock. Even worse, they must listen as the very item they have handled, recommended, sold and loved for so many years – the bound book, the gift of Gutenberg – is given its terminal diagnosis over and over again. No one wants to be the last store specializing in 8-track tapes.
Ben McNally of Toronto’s Ben McNally Books McNally says he is “unbelievably optimistic about what I do for a living.” The reality is, he says – contra Cress –”nobody would be in this business at all if they were not optimistic by nature.” Though he admits that he is “notably unable to see into the future,” he does offer the possibility that non-digital books “are going to become more expensive and better produced. And they may, in fact, end up being produced in smaller numbers.” What the bookselling needs to do in the face of that, he says, is to end the practice of discounting. “The sooner we get back to letting people know that books are great value at regular price,” he says, “the better off everything’s going to be.”