The future of books – and Santa?

There have been three common reactions to the news that theREDgroup Retail – which owns New Zealand’s Whitcoulls, Borders and Bennetts bookstores, has gone into voluntary administration

(This news may not be as bad as it sounds as unlike receivership, the aim of administration is not to sell the business but to try to return it to viability).

1: Shock – what does this mean for book retail in New Zealand? This is a crisis!

2: So what? Whitcoulls’ customer service was poor. They were only pretending to be a book shop. Bring on internet purchases and eBooks. We may even see growth of the independent book sellers.

3: What’s going to happen to Santa? He’s been such an annual fixture on the Whitcoulls’ Queen Street building in Auckland.

Whatever the financial and customer service problems this move does seem to signal significant changes. Inevitably there will be staff losses and closure of at least some shops. But the interesting thing will be how the company accommodates the huge changes in book retailing currently underway globally.

Commenters have already pointed out the Borders and Whitcoulls had not reacted well to the growth in internet book purchasing. And they have been slow to accommodate growth in eBook sales. So any restructuring of these retail outlets will have to take into account the reality that the internet and digital book revolution provides customers with  an alternative of rapid access to almost any book in print or in digital format.

As a recent purchaser of an eBook Reader (see The joys of eBook readers – the Sony PRS-650 Touch) I hope this restructuring will facilitate the lifting of regional restrictions on eBook purchasing.

It’s hard to know what the future of book retail in New Zealand is going to be like. In the last 25 years I have lived through similar upheavals in the music and photographic industries. I guess I have also lived through a similar transformation to digital in financial transactions.

I used to enjoy browsing through records and CDs in music shops. Just as I enjoy browsing through the merchandise in bookshops.

That might change in future. But I will still have the pleasure of browsing through the bottles in a wine shop.

Can’t seen them making that digital.

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4 responses to “The future of books – and Santa?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The future of books – and Santa? | Open Parachute --

  2. So, e-books and the i-books is the greatest thing to happen. As Ronald Regan would say… Well, there you go again, so your nook, kindle, etc. cost a few hundred dollars, not to mention you have invested hundreds or even a thousand dollars worth of e-books loaded onto it (the news media claims it’ll store 3,500 book in the nook, kindle, etc) but you misplace, loose or your e-book is stolen… I’m laughing at everyone who has one and it eventually happens to them. Personally, if I had that happen to one of my paperback book, no big deal. What a waste of money to loose so much in one little e-book device. Besides, you’re being ripped off for the cost of an e-book as opposed to the cost of a paperback book. The e-book is just a copy from one master version and it only cost the seller a few cents to email it to you over the internet. They’re making millions more than what it truly is worth by cutting out the publisher, printers, shippers, etc. Eight-dollar e-book vs. 15 to 20 dollar paperback, I’ll continue to purchase paperbacks. Oh, when your new e-book comes loaded with advertisements in between each chapter (laughter) you’ll think you’re reading it from a magazine. We have private and government idiots (from Both Political Parties) controlling our lives, but now the private sector is becoming crazier.


  3. No doubt you’ve already heard the latest, that Whitcoulls is demanding the holders of vouchers spent at least twice the value of the voucher in order that might might redeem them.


  4. Paper Reader, your view is rather jaundiced. I can access all my existing book purchases on line again from the original outlet. I can also access everything currently on my eReader from it’s copy on my PC.

    So loss of my eReader would be less disastrous than say a robbery of my physical book collection.

    No I would not like adverts in my paid for eBooks any more than I would like them in my hard copy books. I am not aware of any serious move in either direction. However, I do know that technology exists to place video adverts into both hard copy and electronic books and magazines.

    In a sense we are “ripped off” whenever we make a purchase. The provider is in it to make a profit. Currently publishers can provide eBooks more cheaply because they avoid printing, distribution and retail outlet costs. Whether their profit is bigger or not will be determined by the market.

    Already arcade the arrival if authors publishing direct to eBooks and thus also avoiding publishing costs. Maybe ab advantage, maybe not (it also avoids competent editing).


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