Bookstores will not disappear but will exploit digital technologies to increase their virtual and physical inventories, and perhaps become publishers themselves.
By the mid 1970s, the great downtown bookstores had begun to disappear as their customers migrated from city to suburb where population density was too thin to support major backlist retailers.
Editors and their authors seldom form deep friendships for the same reason that psychiatrists and their patients keep their distance: The relationship requires candor that mixes poorly with intimacy.
The marketplace for books when I entered the business shortly after World War II consisted of a thousand or so well stocked independent booksellers in major towns and cities supplemented by thousands of smaller shops that carried limited stocks of mostly current titles along with greeting cards, toys and so on.
The primary goal of publishing general fiction and non-fiction was never profit – though profit was essential to stay in the game. Publishing is a vocation in which the work is its own reward, an insufficient goal for today’s conglomerates.
The revolutionary process by which all books, old and new, in all languages, will soon be available digitally, at practically no cost for storage and delivery, to a radically decentralized world-wide market at the click of a mouse, is irreversible.
What is true for book publishing is true for civilization: the books that survive the test of time are humanity’s backlist, our collective memory.