Bob (from right down the road in Elmira) just made my week via Boing Boing.
Cory Doctorow writes on the network between sales reps and booksellers, and what the Internet can't yet replicate.
"This is the kind of longitudinal, deep, expensive expertise that gets books onto shelves, into the minds of the clerks, onto the recommended tables at the front of the store. It's labor-intensive and highly specialized, and without it, your book's sales only come from people who've already heard of it (through word of mouth, advertising, a review, etc.) and who are either motivated enough to order it direct, or lucky enough to chance on a copy on a shelf at a store that ordered it based on reputation or sales literature alone, without any hand-holding or cajoling."
This isn't to say that a few online king-makers can't make big numbers by themselves, as there are countless examples to the contrary from established authors and Print on Demand neophytes alike.
But despite everything, the relationship between good sales reps and good booksellers works because of the trust and knowledge that has built up between like minded people who've worked in the trade for so long. That can be tough to replicate in the vastness of the Web. It's going to be especially hard given the state of play; for first novels, genre stuff or short fiction collections to break out from the herd, especially when the publisher has committed a ton of resources to the inevitable turds out there, but good booksellers live for finding the good small stuff.
Even in an age of streamlined everything that's not going to go away.
Posted by Dave