Seth Godin posted this interview excerpt on his blog today:
The shift that is happening right now is that the people who insist on keeping the world as it was are going to get more and more frustrated until they lose their jobs. People who want to invent a whole new set of rules, a new paradigm, can’t believe their good fortune and how lucky they are that the people in the industry aren’t noticing an opportunity…
He was talking about the music industry, but those of us who make a living selling the printed word would do well to consider this, too.
The important distinction here is that music labels used to be in the business of grabbing shelf space, on the radio and in the record store. Now, the music industry needs to realign and be in the business of finding and connecting and leading groups of people who want to follow a musician and connect with the other people who want to do the same…
So how are we in the book business “leading groups of people who want to” follow a particular author and “connect people who want to do the same?” The key to me seems to be in another section of the interview:
Digital is about to surpass the CD, and once it starts to happen it’s going to happen faster and faster and faster. The more interesting thing to me is who is going to control the playlist. If there is an infinite amount of music available – and I would argue that as soon as the amount of music available exceeds the amount of time you have in your life, that’s infinite – somebody will have the leverageable spot of deciding what to listen to next. And it’s unclear whether someone will charge to tell me that or will pay to tell me that. It’s still up for grabs in every one of these vertical silos. Who are the tastemakers and how do these ideas spread?
I’d like to think that this is where bookstores, especially indie bookstores, can make their money in the future. In a way, it’s where we’re making our money right now, with our events, our staff picks, our newsletters, and hopefully, our blogs and our online content. This is my Friday the 13th plea to my fellow indie booksellers: As traditional media outlets for books shrink — as newspapers continue to cut back on cultural coverage, as NPR scales back its programming — start thinking of yourselves as the most important resource available to the publishing industry and to the world of readers out there. Be all about books, talking about them incessantly to anyone who will listen in any way that you can. Be the ones to tell the world what to read next. If you don’t, somebody else will.
With that in mind, I shall return this afternoon with a couple of Valentine’s Day picks to get your blood jumping.