First, go read what Lori has to say. Go, I'm watching. It's smart advice. She's been in this business longer than I have.
Second, I'm going to babble some. I'll preface this by saying that I don't know much about macroeconomics, other than a basic understanding of them. I was never meant to be an economist, so any predictions I make are not highly-informed. They're just guesses and extrapolations. But these are some of the things that might happen, if the economy doesn't pick up. They're not in any particular order.
- Borders goes under. They've been victims of bad marketing and sales practices for quite awhile, and their current sales figures aren't looking particularly rosy. I'd be surprised if they manage to outlast this one, particularly because if past economic events are any indicator, we're probably in for a pretty stagnant 2-5 years here.
- Here we have a branching pathway: We can either assume that Borders AND Barnes & Noble go under, or that Barnes & Noble stays solvent. We know right now that bookstore sales are down overall.
- If B&N stays solvent, then let's assume that they get the traffic from Borders and they get economically stronger from Borders collapsing.
- If B&N goes under too, then we have a problem. Chain bookstores have come to dominate in the United States, and at least in my area of NJ, there are no independent bookstores left. If we lose Borders and B&N, I have nowhere I can go to buy books in person.
- Where does that leave me then?
- Assuming that I'm a typical consumer, I'm going to buy books online. Buy enough in bulk, and Amazon makes out well, and you save on delivery charges. You're also saving gas by not driving to the (now-non-existent) bookstores. You're losing out on selection and browsing and all the good things that come from bookstores though.
- Ok, Amazon is now the place to go to for books in the US. There are no chain bookstores left. The economy is still stagnant (or has gotten worse), which means that anyone who would want to open an independent bookstore isn't going to risk the capital on it.
- Now the publishers don't have to market to anyone but Amazon and the few remaining indies. Now they have to direct most of their marketing to Amazon. Now they have to get more web-savvy and start marketing things to niche groups (large or small ones) who are going to be bothered to get online to get the books they want to read.
- All of the marketing shift can radically change editors' buying orders from the people who hold the purse strings at publishing houses.
If we are left with all the events above, then what does this mean for the publishing industry as a whole, and for the writers who produce the commodities that it sells?
Please weigh in and discuss! I'm interested in getting some more opinions on this, because mine is just that--an opinion. =)