ebooks and the self-publishing bubble

nook-3gA couple of recent articles got me thinking again about the current revolution in ebooks and related subjects.

First, the New York Times in The Bookstore’s Last Stand took a look at Barnes and Noble’s attempts to stay competitive in the current environment, focusing on B&N’s creation of the Nook and on its current CEO, William J. Lynch Jr., who joined the company three years ago after working at IAC/InterActiveCorp, the parent company of the Home Shopping Network. Lynch ran both hsn.com and gifts.com there. Surprisingly, Lynch, who considers himself a technology guy and even claims that Barnes and Noble is a “technology company” told the Times that “the idea that devices like the Nook, Kindle and Apple iPad will make bookstores obsolete is nonsense.”

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What Should the LDSBA do Differently?

LDS Booksellers Association

The LDS Booksellers Association‘s annual convention starts today.

For those who don’t know about this convention, it is the principal trade show for LDS products. Most of the association’s 200 producers and distributors display their wares for the 200 member bookstores, who attend hoping to learn what new products are available. Its the LDS equivalent of BookExpo America or the annual shows that many other industries have around the country each year.

I’ve been attending on and off for nearly 15 years, enough to learn something about how the industry works and see the value of the show. I’ve seen the number of stores decline from more than 350 to about 200 now. Attendance at the show has also declined. I’ve also seen the LDSBA’s policies develop, as it sought to improve professionalism among its members.

I think this kind of organization is important. A trade show is useful; its more efficient than sending sales reps (which LDS publishers and producers don’t have) to every bookstore, and it can be more effective than mailing catalogs and making sales phone calls. But I won’t be attending this year, in part because the products I’d hoped to have ready aren’t done yet, and in part because I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with the show.

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Separate but Equal?

When I discover a new book-related service or resource, I always explore them with a great deal of hope — hope that this discovery will provide an answer the difficult problems I see in both the LDS market and in the woldwide market for books. Along the way I’ve discovered everything from Print-on-Demand printers like Lightning Source and BookSurge, social networking sites like Shelfari, Library Thing and (I suppose) Book Crossing, and a host of different online book retailers in addition to the majors like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

But despite the overall improvement that these resources have brought and are bringing to the market for books, these new services have all dashed my hopes for LDS books and Mormon literature. By and large they have done little to help me find Mormon books, and I sometimes wonder if they haven’t actually made it more difficult.

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Amazon Makes It More Difficult for Small Publishers

A recent policy change by Amazon.com looks like it may make the already difficult job of publishing books even more difficult, especially for small and self-publishers. The change already has small publishers and authors circulating petitions, filing complaints with the US Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and many state attorneys general. For those Mormon publishers affected, it will probably raise costs and could also limit sales.

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