I am wasted enough to admit that my fear at this point in life is that I am an obsolete commodity in a dying industry - a person who knows her shit about books in the publishing biz. Please tell me I am wrong.
Overall, I am hopeful about the book business. Others are not. It is my opinion that people who no longer see the positive about this industry have no business being in it anymore.
There are a ton of bleak opinions out there about the future of publishing. I personally believe none of them. I truly fear, however, that I may be wrong. It is my belief that although current surveys and such show that less than half of the population reads, that the market is ripe for change. I believe that people are thirsting for more and that if the big box stores (where the average person shops) offered more, consumers would eat it up. I believe that if BN and Borders would invest in knowledgeable staff, i.e. paying employees what they are worth and offering incentives to long-term staff that would cause them to want to stay, that they would have the potential of earning more money than they have previously seen.
I believe that copping out and hiring staff that don't read merely to save a few bucks on salary is a bad move. Borders has been struggling lately, and I believe that this is part of the reason. Why would a business minded person who knows nothing about the book industry care about the things that I am saying? The wouldn't. Only a reader would understand that books in particular lend themselves more to recommendations than any other industry out there.
It's true. If you read regularly (and even if you don't), then you are probably always on the lookout for something new. If you walk into a bookstore where the staff seems to understand your likes and dislikes and can make a personalized rec based on your taste, aren't you likely to buy the rec? Aren't you then more likely to return in hopes that they can recommend more?
In current store trends, this will never happen and never will again. Indy stores, where you are more likely to see this, are being forced out of business by big box stores. That is reality. Big box stores are cutting costs in the most asinine places - their long-term employees. BN is phasing out leads (the people who are supposed to be experts on each section) and why? Probably in an attempt to limit the number of full-time staff on the payroll. What will this accomplish? In the short-term, it will accomplish accounts payable savings. In the long-term, it will effect ultimate profits. CEOs will see smaller and smaller profits and their bonuses will decrease. Then, they'll let go of more staff. This will continue until it is much too late and they are too far in the hole to get out.
What can they do now to change it? In my personal opinion, hang on to and cherish those knowledgeable employees who know what they are doing. Hire staff who read. In the long-run you may see a small dip in profits in the beginning, but ultimately, I believe that the profits would be worth it.
I am in the minority. Most people seem to believe that the American public is too dumb for this to work. That people will continue to buy the NYT top 10 and only that and that booksellers don't need any knowledge base as long as they can run a register. I hope that they are wrong. Otherwise, I will continue to struggle for all of my remaining years just as much as I have struggled since I graduated from college.
This is what I fear on the eve of my 27th birthday, that I will fail and that there will be nothing that I can do to change it.