by Jack Kessler, email@example.com
April 15, 2011 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on April 15, 2011 - and, a little later, on http://fyifrance.blogspot.com/, and at Facebook-Jack Kessler's Wall-http://tinyurl.com/4fz5ty4
Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The French approach: somewhat similar, somewhat by contrast --
"Indies online : coming to your home"
By Frédérique Roussel, "Libraires en ligne : ça arrive près de chez vous", in Libération, 4 avril
[tr. JK, excerpts:]
It's what we needed... The web-portal of the independent French booksellers finally has lifted its iron curtain. Twelve years after the dawning of the idea, in discussions among French book dealers... Eleven years after the arrival of Amazon in France... After all the lost time, due to the Dotcom Bubble, the difficulty of uniting financial people, and the building of consensus within a shattered, overloaded, and above all very individualistic profession... There have been defections, and oppositions. There was the headache of dreaming-up a complicated technical platform. The task has not been easy. The imminent launch has been reported again and again. But "1001libraires.com", a name designed to enchant an internaute, finally is here.
Behind this homepage lies a solid organization : solid financing -- 2.2 million euros, in the form of zero-interest loans from notably the Centre national du livre for 500,000 euros -- plus funds provided by 36 bookstores and associations of bookstores. At its opening, the website counts 65 bookstore members, with an objective of having 200 within three months...
So, from today, the internaute can order printed and digital books from a catalog of 60,000 titles. He may receive them through the postal mail, within 24 hours, or he may reserve them at the nearest member-bookstore within two hours.
Facing up to the big online sellers, such as Amazon or La FNAC... That is the point made by Gilles de la Porte, president of the corporation behind 1001libraires.com, and former owner of the bookstore la Galerne at Le Havre : he declares, "We remain in close contact with our readers, and our location services send buyers into physical bookstores." Across France 250 booksellers are designated, as of the opening of the service.
A third feature of 1001libraires.com is designed to circumvent the traditional marketing system, using content generated by the booksellers themselves, in some very original programming, and involving the booksellers -- the 1001libraires.com service, M@gazette, offers seven monthly video and audio podcasts, for example "Quinzaine des libraires" partnering with the weekly "Quinzaine littéraire", also "Digitales sur le livre numérique", "Essai libre sur sur les sciences humaines", "Gonzo Bizarro sur la BD"...
So, the independent bookstore in France makes its own Amazon...
But this service emphasizes physical proximity and consultation, also that it will be around for the digital book, as well, where and when the paper train has left the station... "We must embrace these things," adds Gilles de la Porte, "the bookstore no longer will exist if we refuse to"...
Detractors are numerous : some protest against all the money injected into a "machine", here -- others say the consultation services of booksellers might be better-offered via better techniques -- still others worry that this cooperative site removes the booksellers themselves to positions of being mere spectators. And there are those who worry over the fundamental purpose of 1001libraires.com : to outdo Amazon and others like it -- a message contained in its slogan, "The site which moves faster than the Internet" -- that remains to be seen, let's look again in 10 years.
URL for the Libération article : http://www.ecrans.fr/Libraires-en-ligne-ca-arrive-pres,12419.html
URL for 1001Libraires.com : http://www.1001Libraires.com
Note: speed kills...
The race is not always to the swift, sometimes it is to the wise...
France still has some indie booksellers, for example... In California, where I write this, indie bookstores are closing, in large numbers and rapidly. As I said initially, here, one of my own favorite "locals" disappeared just the other day.
In fact a youthful dream which I and my wife long cherished, to occupy and amuse our old age -- the management of an indie bookstore ourselves -- appears to be vanishing, in the USA. More likely nowadays we'd have to found and run herd on our own digital distribution empire, the way Jeff Bezos has, and worry more about profit-and-loss and cloud computing and gigantic server arrays and distribution centers, than about "children's rooms" and "poetry sections", and "small press" and "remainders", and whether to serve coffee and what to do about coffee spills, as we once imagined.
There still are some exceptions left in the USA, though. One store's loss is another's gain, perhaps...
Just around the corner from the indie bookstore here which closed, is another which appears to be doing fabulously well, and now may do even better. Perhaps this is, then, as the economists nearly always say, simply a consolidation & realignment, and not really a paradigm shift.
Perhaps there is opportunity in all of this, that is, for the few who remain: for a small indie bookstore which can find its own market niche, and which "gets" the Internet and digital, and which can figure out how to make money itself from e-books: a small indie which can find and understand new forms of publication, perhaps -- smaller distribution activities, maybe -- small press, local press, local news, academic publishing -- healthy arenas from which the big online retailers could not squeeze their "economies of scale", but which nevertheless could support a small shop and online service, or a few of them.
So many people people are writing and publishing now : everyone, now, everywhere, has a desktop or/and a laptop or/and a palmtop or/and particularly a mobile -- information overload quickly is becoming information inundation, a flood.
So in all of that there are new opportunities for people specialized in controlling or at least channeling such floods: for librarians and libraries, for indie booksellers and indie bookstores -- helped greatly, perhaps, by online services such as 1001libraires.com. As a customer, at least, I gladly would give much to find the camaraderie, and warmth, and easychairs and accompanying coffee and cookies, of the bookstores of my childhood, amid the so-far industrialized e-publishing of today.
They're getting there, with Amazon's "cloud", and Starbucks' "Mobile Card" barcode coffee purchasing, and everyone's Inter-networking of everything. But they're not there yet.
It seems to me too that the long-predicted "decentralization" direction of digital is reversing now, in fact, providing new bookstore opportunities. For some years we have had telecommuting and teleworking opportunites, provided by The Digital, moving many of us to suburbs and small towns and into extensive travel even overseas. Now, though, people appear to want again to live in, and spend more of their personal and professional time in, the Central City. Perhaps we've so automated the back office and routine functions of so much, using our new digital technologies so well, as firms like Amazon and Starbucks have, that we're now free once more to seek real face-time with one another: to live in the center of Big Cities where our friends are, to spend hours lounging around with those friends in city parks, and coffee shops, and in user-friendly bookstores again.
That is what the 20-somethings do now increasingly in San Francisco, anyway: the kids who work for Google and Facebook and Apple and the others -- those firms' large home offices are located down the bay from here, in Silicon Valley -- but their employees all live up here in San Francisco, where there is truly "social" life for them. They may take the GoogleBus down to Mountain View when they have to: the giant vehicles run every 15 minutes in the mornings from Noe Valley, a 45-minute ride, and legend says they have one plug for wifi and another for caffeine, at each seat on-board... But more and more of their work week is spent at and around home where their friends are, now, here in the city. This also is true perhaps, and perhaps increasingly as well, in Manhattan, in central London, in central Paris, all of which are inter-connected Global Cities -- per Saskia Sassen's and other urbanologists' musings about this -- seeing a renaissance of central city property values and services now. So maybe there is simply a new and increasing need, for a new kind of "bookstore", in such places.
In the meantime, then, we all wrestle now with e-text:
So perhaps it's just nostalgia -- my longing for the old user-very-friendly bookshops in which I used to spend happy afternoons -- or perhaps it's the cusp of the newest wave, and the very latest changes. As the commentators are saying about Fukushima Dai-Ichi's new wave unknowns too, now, and about 1001libraire.com, we'll know in 10 years.
Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive), or http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Collections/FYIFrance/ or http://www.fyifrance.com -- also now at http://www.facebook.com ("Jack Kessler" My Notes), and at http://fyifrance.blogspot.com/. Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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