World Fantasy Report #4: Publishing & Bookselling in 10 Years

This will be my last post about World Fantasy.

This was a panel of particular interest to me. It was moderated by Alan Beatts, owner of Borderland Books in San Francisco. Also on the panel were Justin (didn't catch his last name and it's not on the website) of Slow Glass Booksin Australia, and Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven Books. Beats has been in the business for 12 years; Justin, 21 years, and Ketter, 33 years. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this panel of pros.

I wasn't able to get great quotes in my notes, so instead I will paraphrase the juciest tidbits and give credit to their source. If I had accidentally mis-quoted someone, please let me know so I can make a correction right away. I try to be precise when I take notes, but I get writing pretty fast and so sometimes make mistakes.

Anyone can publish a book, but not anyone can get into a bookstore. On average, 2-3 new publishers make contact to try and get a bookseller to take their books. There was a time when it was possible to carry every SF/F book in print. SF/F now has a lot of small presses representing the genre. It's impossible to carry them all. There's also a huge reprint market. -- Greg Ketter.

With Lightnins Source (a POD printer), book prices are going up, but the number of big publishers is going down. -- Alan Beatts.

Walmart and Target are both trying to get into the bookselling game. -- Greg Ketter.

Amazon sells eBooks as a loss. -- Alan Beatts.

Amazon doesn't make money selling books; it makes money selling data. -- Greg Ketter.

In Australia, a mass market costs about $20; a tradeback about $34; and a hardback about $50. -- Justin

Book prices currently don't keep up with inflation. Publishers only make money on 1 of 2 hardback sold, and 1 in 3 of mass market books. Big chains order lots and return lots, which increases the overall price. -- Alan Beatts.

Return rate of indy book stores is much lower than that of big chains. Dreamhaven only returns about 1% of books. -- Greg Ketter.

Indy stores are more expensive, but employees have better knowledge. Chain stores are cheaper and more convenient, but more difficult to get help in. Amazin is negating the convenience of chain stores. -- Alan Beatts.

Espresso Machine costs about $100,000. It costs about $21,000 to set up a bookstore. -- Alan Beatts.

Barnes & Noble and Borders are the 2 main national chains in the US. Borders took a lot of loans, and that money is due in April 2010.  If Borders goes down, it will have a massive effect on the whole business. -- Alan Beatts.

Beatts asked the panel to make 1 prediction for the world of bookselling in 10 years: Greg Ketter predicts he will retire. Justin predicts libraries will be in bigger demand, and also be a bigger resource center. Alan Beatts predict national chain book stores will not exist as physical storefronts.

Half Price books (a chain) specialized in buying remainders. Half Price might beep growing, though they are dependent on the big stores like Borders and B&N generating those big remainders. -- Greg Ketter.

Consumers vote with their dollar. -- Alan Beatts.