In a long and interesting interview with Poets & Writers magazine, Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, has an interesting prediction for the future of book-selling: publishers, not online retailers like Amazon, will profit from selling directly to readers. It makes a lot of sense, especially as book-selling transitions more and more to digital and Amazon’s massive edge in order-fulfillment and customer service is nullified. Is it any wonder Amazon is rushing to solidify the Kindle’s position as the standard platform for eBooks.
Where do you think the future of bookselling is?
With the publishers. I think the publishers will be selling the books directly.
Are you talking about digitally or physical books?
Both. I think there are always going to be people who want physical books, but I think the digital part of the business is going to increase. One of the things that all publishers are worried about now is this idea that a book on Kindle is worth $9.99. If that establishes the price of what a book is worth, what does that say? What if I want to sell Maureen McLane’s book as a hardcover for twenty-four dollars? I think that’s a problem. Again, it’s a lesson from the music business. People have been used to the idea that intellectual property—that a book, an artwork—is worth a certain amount of money. It’s a mark of respect, in a way. But if you turn it into a widget, where every book is worth the same amount, it’s not good. This is where the author, the agent, and the publisher should be working together to protect their mutual interest. And not have the business be decided by a seller.
Yeah. We should be deciding what a book is worth, not them. It’s a problem.
Are you envisioning bookstores going away the way that record stores did?
I think that bookstores are going to be around, but I don’t think they’re going to be the major channel. Especially if we go more and more digital.