During a conversation with a customer some days ago regarding ereaders, ebooks he asked an interesting – albeit old – question: If I thought eBooks would diminish the sales of printed books. The formula “Does x kills books?” is probably as discussed as the the other (unsaid) one I answered: Do people read less today than last year/generation or when we hadn’t had phones, consoles, TVs or even radio.
“No,” was my obvious answer even if I lack (then and now) the scientific means to prove that statement. And only to touch on the unsaid question a little bit: Thank J.K. Rowling for that as myriad of articles just like this one by the Wallstreet Journal shows (Disclaimer: this was literally the first article I clicked on and is several years old – still, the message stands). People – and most important kids! – still read like crazy and with “new” authors like Suzanna Collins, Cassandra Clare, John Green and Rick Rioardan that won’t change in the near future.
So, back on track: Do I fear the rise of the ebook and the imminent death of printed books – and therefore a huge (or even crucial) part of my job? Still no. As long as there will be trees to make paper out of (or a synthetic material that feels, looks and most important smells like paper) there will be people who prefer the haptic approach to reading. The knowledge of actual owning said book (another discussion altogether) and the aesthetic of a wall of overflowing bookshelves is hugely important to a lot of people – including myself.
And regarding my job, it’s hardly only “selling books” but a lot of different media. Like audiobooks, ebooks are just another way of telling stories. They aren’t limiting the access to books, the broaden it.
To put it rather romantically and to burrow from aforementioned John Green: I’m selling stories rather than “just books” and I don’t really care in what form or manner people enjoy them – as long as they do. Enabling more potential readers should be celebrated and cherished.
And bringing stories to people is quite probably the main reason I became a bookseller. It definitely gave me the idea to pursue a career in publishing which may be still in the cards and it sure as hell is the reason I – albeit way too seldom write, both fiction and these blog posts.
So, in summary, what I see myself as is someone who sells stories and (in case of non-fiction) knowledge in whatever type of media. My job is to inform and provide advice to potential customers to the best of my abilities. That I do so without open judgment (my own opinions to specific titles can be asked for but are always given as what they are: a subjective opinion based upon my own preferences).