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May 27

One For the Books

By Don Lafferty | Writing

BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York, this is NPR’s On the Media. I’m Brooke Gladstone.

BOB GARFIELD: And I’m Bob Garfield. The new media are thriving. The old media are dying. That seems to be the theme of our program from week to week to week. But, of course, it’s much more complicated than that because increasingly the old and new are merging into one another.

This week, we’re devoting the program to the oldest of old media – books. Chances are you’ll be buying one or two this holiday season, but where and how you’ll buy them and in what form are open questions.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Nowadays, some 60 percent of all books are not bought in brick-and-mortar bookstores; they’re purchased at airports or checkout counters, Wal-Mart or Costco, Toys R’ Us or Williams-Sonoma, or online.

In case you were wondering, 11 percent are purchased from Amazon.com. The rest are bought at bookstores, but mostly the big chains. The membership of the American Booksellers Association, which serves independent bookstores, has dropped from more than 5,000 to roughly 1,700 in the last decade. Should we decry the state of publishing today?

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