It’s time for publishers to start an ad campaign that attacks bookstores

For far too long, bookstores have sold stuff besides books. It’s time that publishers banded together and attacked bookstores, their business partners and primary retail outlet.

Yes, that idea is crazy, but then so was an article I just read in the Chicago Tribune. A misguided book fetishist wants publishers to start an ad campaign to promote paper books and attack ebook readers like the Kindle, Nook, and the Kindle. Aaron Gilbreath rails against the cleverly designed Kindle commercials that show all of its best features vs paper books, and he thinks it’s time for publishers to strike back.

Publishers should tantalize consumers by evoking books’ sensory pleasures: the smell; the feel in your hands; that crisp, appealing crinkle of a turned page and smooth snap of a dust jacket. Publishers should elicit the joys of “curling up with a book,” the satisfaction of seeing your library on a shelf in your bedroom — the years of your life marked by rows of colorful spines, the pages covered with marginalia. To do this, publishers could borrow vinyl enthusiasts’ lines like, “Records have a certain smell. You can’t smell an MP3,” and, “I associate certain records’ smells with a certain summer, a particular girlfriend.” Audiophiles also discuss fidelity, how records sound undeniably better than MP3s. Surely there’s a book analog waiting to be developed.

I wrote the first paragraph like that just to show you how ridiculous the idea is. Publishers shouldn’t take a position for or against any format; it’s not in their best interest. Their job is to sell as much as possible, not to try to convince people one format (unless one format is a more expensive luxury item, but that’s another matter).

It would make as much sense to attack bookstores as it would to attack the Kindle. At best it would simply shift funds from one of income stream to another and at worst it would alienate customers. Attacking one of your products in favor of another is self-defeating. All it accomplishes is to move money into the ad agency’s pocket while shifting a handful of change around in yours.

But if you really want to go through with it, let me suggest a couple themes for the campaign:

via Mimi and Eunice



Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Chris4 August, 2011

    If modern pbooks weren’t such utter mass-produced mall crap (and mind you, I don’t have a problem with mass-production or malls for that matter), this Luddite might have a point. Most hardbound pbooks are not all that special. Sure, back in the day, there was a high level of quality, but not so much anymore. And paperbacks? Please. I don’t care how great they smell, they’re even bigger piles of crap taking up space.

    Getting jazzed over modern pbooks is like a “car guy” getting wood over a Kia instead of ’71 ‘Cuda convertible or a Silver Ghost.

    A book is the content, not the media on which it is stored, and publishers are in the business of moving content, not catering to the fetishes of pbook Luddites. Not to the detriment of moving content, taht is. There is no reason why publishers cannot market products, such as high quality hardbound books that would appeal to these page-sniffers, alongside other formats.

  2. karen wester newton4 August, 2011

    Whether print books are “better” or worse than ebooks is beside the point. This person seems blind to the fact that ebooks exist because a) publishers create them and b) readers want to buy them. It’s a little like a guy who works in a grocery store expecting General Foods to protest Target selling groceries. General Foods makes money whether their frozen peas are sold by a giant conglomerate or by a mom and pop market.

  3. Tyler4 August, 2011

    Maybe they could feature an ad with a prestige forest and some rednecks with axes. Then a voice would say, “If you don’t buy books, these guys lose their jobs.”

  4. J.W. Bettencourt4 August, 2011

    Do you know who doesn’t make much money these days? Record stores that only sell vinyl. Saying publishers should “fight back” against new money-making technology is just silly.

  5. KLeRosier5 August, 2011

    Along with the sensory pleasures of the smell of a new book they need to add that disgusting dank “Old Book Smell” with a reminder that the smell comes from “book mold” and “book mildew.” If needed we cam bring out the big bazooka… “book mites/lice!”

    Seriously until I bought a Kindle, I didn’t realize how much hostile feedback I’d get. Maybe Kindle owners need to consider going into the closet! Are there KAA programs in library basements?
    Jeez every time I comment on your post I end up with a blog post developing in my head!

  6. The pBook Strikes Back! (printed books against ebooks) | KLeRosier20 September, 2011

    […] Resources: The springboard for this blog came from a blog post in  The Digital Reader blog (which is one of my favorites.) It’s time for publishers to start an ad campaign that attacks bookstores […]

  7. […] It’s time for publishers to start an ad campaign that attacks bookstores by Nate Hoffelder @ The Digital Reader: A tongue-in-cheek suggestion that publishers campaign against bookstores for carving into their profit margin by selling items other than books. […]


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