Devil’s bargain

Better to reign in hell, than serve in Heav’n. 

—John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I 

When I read about Amazon’s offer to independent bookstores last week, that line from Paradise Lost immediately popped into my head. The trouble is that I don’t know which side of Milton’s quote this offer falls on. On the one hand, indie bookstores would make some money from the sale of kindles in their store. On the other hand, that offer doesn’t last forever and there’s the possibility that getting people introduced to ereaders will meant that readers buy even fewer print books.According to the Wired article I linked above, the offer has been rejected by many indie bookstores so far. I daresay a few might take Amazon up on their offer because it means they’ll have some income coming in for a while.

Shakespeare and Company, still going strong.

There are so many questions this article has churned up for me. Are independent bookstores really the best place to try and sell tablets and ereaders? Bookstores are where the diehard readers go to get their next fix of print. Are ebooks taking off really? Most readers I know either prefer print or buy both print and online. What kind of income would that really bring in anyway?

The really big question, though, is what independent bookstores are going to do in the future? With reading rates declining and ebooks doing stead business, the outlook is dire. Would it be better for them in the long run to make a deal with the devil to survive for a little while longer? Or hold out and provide a unique experience for dedicated readers that Amazon can’t?

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