Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Cost Of The Internet Grows, Threatens Books

Technology and the online revolution have produced many game-changing services, businesses, ideas, and ways of communicating worldwide.  The digital world has predictably altered how people buy goods and services, from price-comparison tools to advertising to removing the need for brick and mortar everywhere.  We now are learning of the cost of the Internet. 

According to Winter Institute 11, an annual event involving the American Booksellers Association, the digital world is causing taxes to shrink.  For example, the failure of 23 states and Washington DC to collect the full sales tax on Amazon sales resulted in a 625 million-dollar loss in revenue in 2014.  Add in other online retailers and who knows what the damages come to.

Now add in the commercial real estate slump.  The Institute estimated that the growth of online retail reduced the demand for retail space by about 100,000,000 square feet.  That’s the equivalent of 30,000 storefronts that would have hired 136,000 workers, and generated $420 million in property taxes annually.

Sure the Internet creates convenience, more competition to lower prices, and more choice in the marketplace.  But we don’t have to trade everything for it.  We should have sales taxes collected every time an item is sold, whether online, on the street, or in a physical store.

The real estate issue is harder to fix, though it’s obvious many businesses are looking to balance needs for a digital presence and a physical space.  Even Amazon is reportedly considering opening up hundreds of stores.

When it comes to books, the book industry can’t tolerate the loss of any physical stores.  Books, in order to grow and thrive, demand exposure and discovery in physical places.  Books need to be consumed by human hands and eyes, purchased in a communal setting where people interact and talk to one another.  Books need to be on display in places that can hold events and bring in authors and speakers.   Books are a living and breathing organism, not a boxed up commodity that can merely be packaged from a warehouse.

The best thing for books in a digital era is for a level playing field.  Tax all digital sales.  Open more bookstores.  Encourage people to attend events where books are sold and discussed.  Leave digital for social media promotions but leave paper and stores for books and readers to come together.

It’s hard to believe that the web era is more than a quarter-century old.  There’s a whole generation that’s lived in a society where digital is the dominant norm.  But we must protect books from the effects of a lopsided Internet.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 201

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