Tuesday, 16 August 2011
The Kindle Dilemma...
Many SMU bloggers have joined me in praising the new reading experience which Kindle offers. However, have we stopped to consider the likely impact this will have on the future of the good old high street bookseller?
I can't remember when I last bought from Waterstones. I used to spend a fortune there. I visit the Cardiff branch at least once a week. Yet, I'm ashamed to say I use my visits to choose the books I eventually by from Amazon. Does this sound familiar?
Last week, the entire Waterstones fiction stock was included in their 3 for 2 offer. I was in a righteous mood and determined to make a purchase. However, they didn't have the titles I wanted. Instead, I whipped out my Kindle, had a fnatastic time surfing the more extensively stocked Kindle store and snapped-up 3 more downloads. Even better value than 3 for 2!
It pricks my conscience that as a new Kindle devotee I am further helping Amazon increase its iron grip on the book market. Bookshops are likely to suffer in the long term. And I would hate not to have a well stocked bookshop for browsing.
So, is Kindle bringing us closer to that dreadful scenario - the bookshop-free high street? Borders has disappeared and if Waterstones foundered, we'd be left with just WH Smith. Perhaps I should take an ethical approach and split my purchases evenly between Kindle ebooks and print copies bought in a bookshop? Realisitically, it boils down to the fact that I'm not prepared to pay the higher prices levied by bookstores. I am not alone. Many would mourn the demise of the high street bookseller, but in the interest of their pockets are exclusively patronising online suppliers.
To safeguard their future, bookshops need to change, though I'm not sure how. Some bookshops already sell ereaders. Should they have instore download stations for purchasing ebooks? But then, why would you bother going into a bookshop to buy downloads when you can do this at home or on the move with the new Kindle 3G?
The 'book' will survive but I am not so confident about the longevity of the non-virtual bookseller. If Kindle changes the nature of book retailing, I'm not convinced this will be for the better. I certainly feel uneasy about contributing to this trend. Sadly, I know I will not be changing my behaviour. I will continue to buy my books online and most of these will now be Kindle formats. I also know that in doing so I may well be shooting myself in the foot. How do other blog readers stand on this issue? Over to you...
I'm going to sign off now. Thanks to my ex-colleagues at SMU for inviting me to contribute to their excellent blog and thanks for all the interesting responses. Happy Kindling!!