Kevin J. Anderson and the disappearing bookstores

I was listening to an interview of science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson over at Mark Dawson’s podcast. 

I always find Kevin J. Anderson to be a good source of information. This time was no exception.

Anderson started out as a traditionally published author, and now he’s a hybrid author. Hyper-prolific, he divides his publishing activities between his own publishing company, Wordfire, and trad publishers like Tor Books.

In this interview, Anderson raised the question: What if Barnes & Noble disappears? B&N, is after all, one of the few brick-and-mortar book retailing chains left in existence.

Books are still sold in retail outlets like Walmart, and in small, independently owned bookstores, of course. Presumably this will continue. 

But have you ever assessed the actual amount of shelf space allocated to books at your local Walmart? It isn’t very much. Your local Walmart probably allocates a lot more shelf space to paper towels and toilet paper.

And as for independent bookstores: They’re nice, and much romanticized. But they only thrive in certain places, notably near big cities, and in university towns. Out here in the suburbs of southern Ohio, there aren’t many independent bookstores.(But there was a Borders, until competition with Amazon drove Borders out of business a few years ago.) 

Anderson asks the question: With the shelf space available for print books so diminished, will publishers still be able to offer lucrative contracts to writers? And this leads to yet another question: if publishers can no longer afford to offer lucrative contracts, then why would any writer want to sign with the New York publisher? 

If we reach a world where everyone is selling most of their books on Amazon, then what difference will it make?

I’m not quite ready to predict that Stephen King and James Patterson will soon be self-publishing. But one thing is for sure: a lot more mid-list authors already are. 

Just ask Kevin J. Anderson, who used to be an exclusively trad-pubbed author. 

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