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Third Place Books Managing Partner Robert Sindelar published a post predicting the future of bookstores, specifically independent bookstores, in the age of e-books. He predicts that e-books will have "little to no impact on physical independent bookstores."

I certainly believe, as many studies show, that ebooks will slowly replace a sizeable percentage of the physical book market. Yet, I also believe that the converts from physical books to ebooks will be converting sales that were happening mostly online, not in stores like mine. As far as I have seen, there has been no real data assembled to look at where current ebook buyers bought their books prior to their ebook lifestyle. My guess is that if that analysis were ever done, we would find that the majority of these customers’ prior book buying habits were not in physical independent bookstores.

Most independent bookstores that are still in existence, have been fighting the battle of reimagining themselves for years to make sure that what they offer (products, services, amenities) is not only relevant to their customer base, but is essential to those customers, and is not easily duplicated elsewhere (online, chain stores and big box retailers).

Sindelar is a smart guy, and he makes a great case for his prediction. Much of what I've read suggests that the e-book will probably replace the disposable side of publishing—your Da Vinci Codes, fad sociology and dieting books, and popular titles like that. If that's true, this means that e-books will hurt Borders and Barnes & Noble much more than independent bookstores, which had ceded a lot of that market to the big guys anyway. (I can guarantee you that Dan Brown isn't paying Third Place's rent.)

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I do take issue with Sindelar's comment about independent booksellers reimagining themselves. Third Place has done a great job with keeping themselves useful, but most other independent bookstores in town could do a better job staying relevant. I was speaking to a used bookseller a while back, and he said a former used bookseller came in and complained about publishing, saying, "Yeah, the internet killed my business." Of course, the bookseller who was still in business does 40% of his sales online. The internet didn't kill your business; your inability to adjust to the internet killed your business.

And I'm willing to bet that it's the same thing here: E-books won't kill independent bookstores, but the inability of independent bookstores to adjust to e-books will kill some independent bookstores.