I spent a whole week at Frankfurt this year – a whole week selling, networking, schmoozing, wining and dining. Most of the time I was among veterans. Those who know the fair, who know how to work it and who go again and again to boost business and catch up with colleagues.
Are we obsessed with going digital as a nation, as publishers or is it just me? Everyday I read the bookseller, follow my twitter feeds and browse eagerly, looking for further verification that the book has no future.
As someone who sells books, this obsession was starting to worry me a bit. Should we all abandon our jobs in the book trade and get on the digital band wagon? I started to look at my friends working in digital media and think they are ‘lucky’ to be in-the-know and at the forefront of the revolution.
And then it suddenly occurred to me that there are millions of us still working in the book trade, still sat in meetings discussing the cover, the page count and the trim size. So why is no one fighting for the life of the book and the jobs of authors, publishers and booksellers? (think civil rights movements!) Surely we can do more to keep the book alive.
I spent a few hours wondering around F***** (could have been any of the large chains) the other day, browsing the shelves and dreaming of having enough time to read all the books on display. However, I did get the impression that there was a lot of ‘space’, that the shelves weren’t bustling with choice of content (as you might find online). And what about customer reviews? Amazon has proven that what really pushes a consumer to buy – is reading a non-branded customer review. Where are the in-store forums? Surely bookshops should be inviting people in for copious amounts of alcohol and a place to air their views – now that’s something that the Internet can’t offer!
Despite the digital hype, publishers are still producing books. We are trying our hardest to keep hold of the versatile, tactile element of owning a book and the pride so many of us hold in the visual array of titles on our bookshelves.
So before we all get pushed out of our day jobs, into the unknown; why don’t booksellers look at their shelves and use the Internet as a model of how to market our brands. We could use the offline advantage of being able to browse the shelves, talk about books we’ve read whilst having a drink. How where’s the harm in that?