Charge? How dare they

Josh Spilker

A roll of money

Dolla dolla billz

You gotta love the NY Times fear-mongering trend stories. The latest?

Charging admission for author events. Oh the horror! How could they do such a practical, no-brainer type of thing like this? How could we possibly let bookstores… change and adapt? Book people say they want to stop the bleeding, but continue to cut up the body with a few quick Amazonian keystrokes.
Now the body is standing up for itself. Maybe even punching back against these customers that rob it all the time. So now booksellers are selling what actually sells. Live events. That's the only way bands make money and authors are just a step or two behind (as always). If I was a somewhat established author (and you know who you are) I'd demand that I'd be paid to go on tour. (Personally, I don't have to worry about that any time soon).
The lingering question for bookstores—what if no one comes? Well, as I saw most awkwardly once at Davis-Kidd in Nashville (now deceased by the way), no one came anyway when it was free. Charging creates a type of cache.
Here's Keith Gessen of n + 1 in the same NY Times story:
BookCourt, a bookstore in Brooklyn that holds about 300 author events each year, charged $10 a person for an event celebrating the magazine N+1 in December, at the urging of Keith Gessen, an author and an editor of N+1. More than 200 people showed up.
“I think it makes it more fun,” said Mr. Gessen, adding that he believed all events should charge admission. “I don’t think you should be able to walk into a Barnes & Noble and get to look at Joan Didion.”
Dang, he's right. I can't see whatever-indie-band-of-the-moment for free, why should I see whatever-hot-popular-author for free (thanks for the press pass, btw).
The book industry has created this largesse of free-ness based off the university model I guess, where universities were awash in cash (uh…) to lure whatever author to campus, and then letting people in free.
This doesn't work for bookstores. And they better snap to it. Many of them already have coffeeshops. Go ahead and get your liquor license. Young book people like to drink. Authors like to drink. Everyone will realize it's more fun that way, and yes, then they might be more willing to pay for it. Either do that, or just go all mobile. Stop having a storefront, have all your author readings in bars, tote around your box of books and then sell e-books from your GoogleBooks account right there on the spot.
There's very little middle ground anymore.
And here's the reality: I drop $10 for a night at a show, way more often then I drop $10 for a book. There I said it. There's money to be made here. The war is over. Amazon won. Let the bookstores/book people make their money this way.

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