More funny numbers about bookselling

I should just stop reading The New York Times' coverage of the book industry, right?

But I read this story on Barnes & Noble and how it can't possibly go under because traditional publishers don't want it to.

Well, that sounds like a sound business plan.

Of course the article regurgitates the not-at-all made-up fact that Barnes & Noble controls 27% of the e-book market. And we know this isn't self-serving propaganda from Barnes & Noble, because all those traditional publishers--you know, the ones who will be totally screwed if Barnes & Noble goes under?--they swear up and down that it's so!

Yeah, that number is definitely not self-serving propaganda from Barnes & Noble, it's self-serving propaganda from Barnes & Noble and the traditional publishers. Good to know. (Even if you think that they're not just lying--and publishers do have a long and storied history of lying about book sales--then this would still indicate that Barnes & Noble's figures apply only to to e-books from large, traditional publishers.)

And of course despite the fact that Barnes & Noble has been plowing under indie bookstores since its inception, they have to trot out the poor, poor indie booksellers.

Did you know that, according to the article, "Since 2002, the United States has lost roughly 500 independent bookstores — nearly one out of five." Sounds awful, huh?

Of course, that's since 2002. Pick a different start date, like they did in this Washington Post article published last August, and the picture looks different, too:

The American Booksellers Association, the national trade organization for independently owned bookstores, counted a 7 percent growth last year and has gained 100 new members in the past six months. The association now counts 1,830 member stores across the country, up by 400 since 2005, according to Meg Smith, the association’s spokeswoman.


Hmm.... So there has been a big decline in independent bookstores, but it's a result of what was happening between 2002 and 2005. I'd guess it had something to do with the economic conditions following Sept. 11th. It's certainly got very little to do with what is driving Barnes & Noble under in 2012, which I would argue is the result of them adhering to a business strategy (large selection plus low prices) that Amazon does better.

Then we stop getting numbers, because that would involve the reporter actually having to do some work. Instead, we rely on weepy, unsupported generalizations straight from the mouths of traditional publishers. The backlist "would suffer terribly," which is exactly why so many writers are fighting to get the rights to their backlists returned to them. And the CEO of Macmillan (you know, one of the publishing houses currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union, because traditional publishers would rather break the law than adapt to the new world of bookselling) assures us that "Anybody who is an author, a publisher, or makes their living from distributing intellectual property in book form is badly hurt...if Barnes & Noble does not prosper."

Wow. Tell that to Joe Konrath.