Is book selling unwinding?

Carmon Friedrich calls our attention to this article about the effect that the internet is having on traditional book sellers. And it isn’t just the threat posed by powerhouse online sellers such as Amazon, who sell at such high volume that they can drastically undercut the prices that a bricks-and-mortar bookstore can offer.

Until recently the only realistic book source for most buyers, especially those in search of books not published recently, was a book store; meanwhile, huge quantities of those same books sat on bookshelves across the country, purchased and perhaps read but now unneeded by the purchaser. But now the internet has made it almost trivial for those who want a book to locate copies owned by people who no longer want it and are willing to sell it for a small fraction of the original price paid. If you aren’t aware of this, go to abebooks.com and search for a book, then marvel at how many people are willing to send it to you for about a dollar plus shipping. And then there is Paperback Swap, where ordinary people can easily offer books they no longer want in trade for books they do want.

Entire business models were built that counted on the inability of people to easily pass along books they no longer wanted. Publishers made money printing more books than were needed, and bookstores made more money selling more books than were needed. But now that folks can easily pass along a book, it may take many years before we use up the inventory of books in print. Perhaps it will never be necessary to reprint another book, or to buy a new copy of a book already in print.

If you’re looking for a good deal on a book that were once loved but are no longer needed, stop by Cindy’s house this weekend. I hear she’ll be selling thousands of them.

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