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While I doubt books are going to become extinct anytime soon, the industry will most certainly change in the upcoming years. Just like television and Internet have changed the book publishing landscape, so will blogs and digital books.

This pains me, because I have always loved books. But it seems to me that, in an era of speed, big fat books are a relic of the past. While works of fiction are probably going to be the last ones standing, non-fiction books will most probably slowly be replaced by more and more scholarly articles and, well, blogs.

Oh dear. I’m murdering the world of book publishing.

Apparently there is another factor in recent declines in book sales.

Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It

By David Streitfeld, for the NYT; December 27, 2008

Book publishers and booksellers are full of foreboding — even more than usual for an industry that’s been anticipating its demise since the advent of television. The holiday season that just ended is likely to have been one of the worst in decades. Publishers have been cutting back and laying off. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that it wouldn’t be acquiring any new manuscripts, a move akin to a butcher shop proclaiming it had stopped ordering fresh meat.

Bookstores, both new and secondhand, are faltering as well. Olsson’s, the leading independent chain in Washington, went bankrupt and shut down in September. Robin’s, which says it is the oldest bookstore in Philadelphia, will close next month. The once-mighty Borders chain is on the rocks. Powell’s, the huge store in Portland, Ore., said sales were so weak it was encouraging its staff to take unpaid sabbaticals.

Don’t blame this carnage on the recession or any of the usual suspects, including increased competition for the reader’s time or diminished attention spans. What’s undermining the book industry is not the absence of casual readers but the changing habits of devoted readers.

In other words, it’s all the fault of people like myself, who increasingly use the Internet both to buy books and later, after their value to us is gone, sell them. This is not about Amazon peddling new books at discounted prices, which has been a factor in the book business for a decade, but about the rise of a worldwide network of amateurs who sell books from their homes or, if they’re lazy like me, in partnership with an Internet dealer who does all the work for a chunk of the proceeds.

They get their books from friends, yard sales, recycling centers, their own shelves. castoffs (I just bought a book from a guy whose online handle was Clif Is Emptying His Closet). Some list them for as little as a penny, although most aim for at least a buck. This growing market is achieving an aggregate mass that is starting to prove problematic for publishers, new bookstores and secondhand bookstores.

But as long as we have Twilight-ish books out there, as well as books about the X-files and Supernatural, we can breathe a little easier. And, once again, I am forced to thank Stephenie Meyer.

Read the rest of the article above here.

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