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What happens to the sci-fi digests if B&N tubes it?

(18 posts)
  • Started 6 years ago by oblomov
  • Latest reply from LukeJackson

  1. oblomov
    Member

    As I have watched recent news about Barnes & Noble closing its flagship store, etc., I have been thinking about this a lot. Given that the distribution models have had to change in recent years so that the big remaining print digests only hit the big box stores, the possibility of the final big box tanking seems to pose a threat to the future of the print magazines. While I know some have a cornucopian stance on the prospect of everything being on an e-reader, I think the disappearance of readily available print versions of reliably-curated, professional-quality digests could have a real negative impact on the future of the genre; on new writers and on new readers.

    Granted, I think the death of bookstores in general could have a catastrophic impact on literacy as a whole, but specifically speaking of science fiction, I think not being able to walk into a bookstore somewhere and pick up F&SF or Asimov's on a lark would be kind of tragic.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  2. geoffhart1962
    Member

    I'd like to think that the SF/F Publishers will get a clue from the self-publishing model and start selling directly to their readers online rather than giving up an unhealthy share of their profits to Amazon et al. I just wish they'd choose prices that are decreased by subtracting the cost of printing, warehousing, and mailing the print copies. Thus far, I haven't seen much evidence of this, though I confess to not having actually collected any data. Call that uninformed opinion, not fact, please.

    Particularly now that tablet computers are rapidly cutting into the market for desktop and laptop computers, I suspect that a steadily increasing volume of books and magazines will be electronic rather than paper. This is environmentally a good thing, much though I would hate to see the demise of printed books. Once tablet versions of books and magazines become the dominant form, you can expect a large drop in Amazon's profits. Or so I hope.

    I think this will have an even more unpleasant effect on small independent booksellers than Amazon and the big-box stores have had. But I'm not sure that anything much can be done about that, any more than we can resuscitate the buggy whip and horsedrawn carriage industry through good intentions. Technology (and economics) march along, grinding anyone who moves too slowly under-wheel.

    My new year's resolution is to help out a local bookstore by ordering more (all?) of my first-run books from them. I can afford the cost, so apart from being a cheapskate, there's no reason for me to keep feeding Amazon. I'll still buy remaindered books at the local big-box store and used books from ABE.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  3. geoff offered: "I suspect that a steadily increasing volume of books and magazines will be electronic rather than paper. This is environmentally a good thing..."

    About the environmental thing. Paper is a readily renewable resource. Enough time has passed to make reliable studies on the energy consumption of the average smart-phone, which is powered by electricity. I wish I could remember my source, but I can't, so question my remembrance of what it said if you want to, but the study showed that the average smart-phone uses, in a year, the same amount of energy as does the average refrigerator. We have to keep recharging them, over and over and over. And whether we like it or not, and what may happen in the future or not, we're stuck with the fact now, today, that the vast majority of our electricity comes from burning coal and coal products. Coal is not renewable and otherwise affects the environment in ways growing trees for paper does not.

    So all I'm suggesting is another open-minded look at what is more environmentally unfriendly, growing trees, or mining coal to make electricity to make smart-phones (and other techno-gadgets) run. One can also say that for every household refrigerator using electricity that there are at least 2 and most likely in many households 3 or more smartphones or equivalent gadgets. And if each uses over a year's time the same amount of energy as the fridge, then...

    Posted 6 years ago #
  4. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Dave made the very valuable point that e-books aren't necessarily environmentally benign. Very true. I sometimes forget that, since I live in a place (Quebec) with some of the cheapest and greenest (hydroelectric) electricity on Earth. Not to say "green", mind you, but greener than most. (Much like "holier than thou".)

    However, against the cost of recharging an e-book reader, you have to weigh the cost of felling trees and turning them into paper (not trivial; I worked in forestry research for a couple decades), transporting the printed books from the printer to the warehouses and thence to the customer, and dealing with the methane emissions (worse than CO2) from any that are junked in landfills. It's hard to imagine that this consumes less energy than charging an e-book reader.

    I recall reading a study a couple decades back about the amount of CO2 that has been removed from the atmosphere purely in the form of back-issues of National Geographic. The numbers were stunning.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  5. Geoff,

    Take into account all of the carbon-based energy required to make the electricity for the factories (wherever they may be located) making the smartphones and iPads, etc. And what environmentally not-good raw materials must be extracted and processed, shipped and delivered, to make the iPads and smartphones and all other tech-gadgets that continuously need to be recharged...from electricity, which is predominantly provided by coal in one form or another.

    One way or another, printed books or factory-made smartphones have to be processed from certain materials, made, shipped and delivered to customers. Both take X amount of energy along the way, mostly garnered from coal powered electricity.

    One is a renewable resource, that, when in use, takes no electricity (the print book). Any ebook or ereader or smartphone or any other tech-gadget, does forever and always (as it stands now), use some form of electricity based on coal as its source--and which is not renewable.

    Whether you're making print books, or ebooks or any other tech-gadgets, both undergo a process from raw materials to finished product at market. These processes may vary, but...we'll not run out of trees or wood any time soon, whereas the coal-to-electricity to power any tech-gadget is not renewable. And we're making millions and millions and millions _more_ tech-gadgets every year, and they suck more electricity from the grid than ever before, calling for more coal to be mined to keep up with the demand. And once that's gone, and if we haven't found an energy source to replace it for all this stuff?

    I'm not counting out the printed book just yet (not on environmental grounds anyway), especially since paper books come from a readily renewable resource...and have been around a heckuva lot longer than any smartphone or ereader, and whose various materials making up such gadgets are not renewable and don't last nearly as long as a printed book. Talk about your disposable product.

    I could be wrong, and maybe am. But this is the argument I would make at this point, knowing what I do about these things (which may or may not make my reasoning as sound as it should be, but is where I'm at). :-)

    Posted 6 years ago #
  6. To get back to the original question of what might happen if B&N goes under and the major bookstores are no longer an outlet for selling the digests--

    Just off the top of my head I'm reminded that most digest sales (of the actual print magazines anyway) come through subscriptions. Publishers should then concentrate on subscriptions like never before.

    A second mode of attack might be to concentrate like never before on placing our genre magazines in grocery stores (where I've seen copies, though hit and miss and mostly rarely), and in mall bookstores. Grocery stores are ubiquitous, needless to say, and malls are everywhere as well.

    Push for subscriptions, and placement in grocery stores and mall bookstores if the major bookstores chains are a thing of the past. Best I can come up with.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  7. oblomov
    Member

    It seems like I remember the days when the mags actually did show up in grocery stores. I know every once in a great while I will see a special edition the Twelve Tomorrows MIT review, for instance, show up there, but I never see the Dell books next to the Penny Press crossword puzzles anymore. I would love to see the mags on the shelves in independent bookstores, especially ones that focus on genre - though I remember a year or two ago Gordon mentioning on here that -- at least in the case of F&SF -- the number each bookstore was required to purchase so that the mag breaks even could be prohibitive for the average indie in this day and age. As far as Asimov's and Analog, I have not a fraction of a clue of what their business model looks like. I just do a lot of hoping and praying to pagan deities that they stick around.

    Still, I truly hope that if B&N takes a dump, that there will be some model that will allow for F&SF and the Dell books to get on the shelves of indies, or the groceries stores again, or wherever a little kid can walk by and see a book's cover and have his young imagination piqued at--oh my god I am getting schlocky. But seriously, if the whole world turns to e-readers I'm throwing up my hands and heading for the mountains to herd goats.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  8. Ron
    Member

    I find Dean Wesly Smith's outlook sensible. Ebook sales are leveling off. Traditional publishers will still be around, though there will probably be mergers and downsizing. Barnes and Noble will still be around.

    http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=11245

    Posted 6 years ago #
  9. Thanks for the link to Dean's page, Ron. I'm much more reassured of the situation having read what he's posted about it.

    I had no idea he and Kris were doing those new fiction magazines, either. They look pretty interesting to say the least.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  10. Kevin C.
    Member

    Well, Dave, considering the source for coal, then it, too, is renewable, just it takes a very long time.

    I'm on the other side of this issue. All I have to offer is the SWAG I posted here some months ago. For example, let's use my estimate of how much energy a tablet consumes per year: 10.950 KWh (see the Revisiting the environmental impact of print vs electronic thread). The average refrigerator uses 350 to 700 KWh annually (source: http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/refrigerators.html ). That means our hypothetical tablet uses up to nearly 64 times less than a refrigerator per year. According to http://lifehacker.com/5948075/how-much-energy-a-smartphone-uses-in-a-year-and-what-it-means-for-your-budget , a smartphone uses up to 4.9 KWh per year, a far cry from a refrigerator's 350 -700 KWh.

    Now, it turns out the smartphone = refrigerator mem is indeed making the rounds (see http://theweek.com/article/index/248273/your-iphone-uses-more-energy-than-a-refrigerator ), but I question it because the current draw on charging a smartphone is much less than a refrigerator compressor, and the new phones don't seem to take long to charge. As a case in point, I noticed a neat gadget by the suitcases in my last visit to a department store: A portable solar cell charger for smartphones. It was a little smaller than a tablet, and cost less than $9.00.

    As to the rest, I fear it's turning into a Chevy vs Ford / PC vs Mac / Windows vs Linux type discussion. And to be honest, my estimates a few months ago are no more than back of the envelope calculations. That said, I do think there's bad info out there, and we have to be careful to sift through it to find the hard data.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  11. BevanEvansMcdougie
    Member

    ...Considering my revelation of my experience recently at B&N (one particular San Jose one , anyway) , well !!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted 6 years ago #
  12. Kevin C.
    Member

    Dave:

    On the other issue, I have to point out that the situation with B&N is exactly what those of us in the boonies have endured for years. I would have to drive hours one way just on chance that a bookstore might have a copy. When magazine distributions contracted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a source for the digests vanished for all practical purposes, and along with it market exposure. One does not buy what one does not know exists; one does not subscribe to a magazine they do not know if they will like. Until I bought an e-reader, the only way I could have sampled a magazine was to send for a single copy, but I'd first have to know that the magazine existed in order to do so.

    I'd love to see the old magazines everywhere from drug stores to convenience stores again. But here's the rub: If distribution was cost effective, it wouldn't have ended in the first place. If B&N is no longer an outlet, then very likely nothing will replace it. Which leaves subscription for those that know the magazine exists, or e-readers. And that's about all.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  13. Kevin C.
    Member

    Dave:

    On the other issue, I have to point out that the situation with B&N is exactly what those of us in the boonies have endured for years. I would have to drive hours one way just on chance that a bookstore might have a copy. When magazine distributions contracted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a source for the digests vanished for all practical purposes, and along with it market exposure. One does not buy what one does not know exists; one does not subscribe to a magazine they do not know if they will like. Until I bought an e-reader, the only way I could have sampled a magazine was to send for a single copy, but I'd first have to know that the magazine existed in order to do so.

    I'd love to see the old magazines everywhere from drug stores to convenience stores again. But here's the rub: If distribution was cost effective, it wouldn't have ended in the first place. If B&N is no longer an outlet, then very likely nothing will replace it. Which leaves subscription for those that know the magazine exists, or e-readers. And that's about all.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  14. BevanEvansMcdougie
    Member

    ...I think the whole question about comic book distribution beyond direct market comics shops could certainly be brought in here as another angle/light to shine on this , but I don't quite have any fully-formed thoughts to say regarding this beyond that !!!
    I do think that the magazines should not give up p[rint entirely , even if rtrenchment is needed ~ Actually , and I don't exactly like suggesting this , but mightn't raising thesingle-copy price of copies help a little , in allowing a greater bit of sugar-on-stick to distributors and shops , a la the fact that Marvel (and possibly DC) , in modern times , make their newsstand-distributed copies of their comics priced a dollar more than comics-shop copies , otherwise nonchanged (beyond the different UPCs for comics-shop and newsstand copies) as my looking thru the comic book selection at that B&N I posted about here once again showed me ?
    Maybe a certain " perception of greater value " could be added by adding , to the center of the digests , some color , cardstock , pictoral stuff - Artwork or movie stills/promo stuff . 4 pages ? To slightly justify the larger price . - I'm remembering how early-1970s mass-market paperbacks had these ads in color for cigarettes and stuff in the middle , remember that ? I once read that a suit from the Authors' League quashed that , but anyway...
    Of course , I don't know that the business practices of the funnybook biz are a great model for ANYONE (Obiligitory self-depreciation break . )...

    Posted 6 years ago #
  15. Ron
    Member

    I admit I was wrong.

    Earlier in this thread I thought that Barnes and Noble would stay around.

    I now think Barnes and Noble is in a precarious position.

    Barnes and Noble has temporarily closed over 500 stores:

    https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/82896-barnes-noble-scales-back.html

    Barnes and Noble stops selling magazines while coronavirus rages:

    https://nypost.com/2020/03/31/barnes-noble-stops-selling-magazines-while-coronavirus-rages/

    Posted 2 months ago #
  16. LukeJackson
    Member

    Aren’t these coronavirus closures just temporary? What makes you think they will be permanent?

    Posted 1 month ago #
  17. Ron
    Member

    While a company like Amazon will survive the current downturn, a less financially robust company such as Barnes and Noble might not.

    I hope I'm wrong.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  18. LukeJackson
    Member

    Thankfully, it appears the OC B&Ns have reopened with reduced hours.

    Posted 4 days ago #

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