Booksellers on eBooks: Henry Zook of BookCourt in Brooklyn, NY

Lately, we’ve been hearing from all kinds of people about eBooks–everyone seems to have something to say. But one group we at eBookNewser haven’t talked to much is Booksellers, folks whose livelihood depends on good old paper books. So, we decided we’d start asking them what they think about these newfangled things. Do booksellers think print books are going down the drain, or do people just love their paper books?

We decided to start near home, with Henry Zook, owner of BookCourt, a thriving bookstore in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. The store regularly hosts readings, recently expanded its space, and is deeply rooted in its community.

Zook feels pretty sure that paper books are here to stay: “The transition to general interest e-books is a leap. Some people are comfortable with it and I anticipate the e-readership of thrillers and certain non-fiction titles to grow,” said Zook.

“But most customers prefer a real book. It’s a tangible experience with the material, and information and content is retained longer from print than any other medium. This according a piece in the NYT years ago comparing Clinton’s reading (books and print material) to Bush Sr.’s (which was mostly from videos, etc). And there is a difference between print on an iPad, Nook or Kindle and that on a book. From my point of view print on an electronic device evaporates from my mind quicker than from print. It’s just not the same experience. Is this because I was raised on books? I don’t think so. My sons (ages 19 and 25) read nothing on eBooks and wouldn’t unless of course that was the only available form.”

Zook does, however, think the academic market is already primed to take that leap: “There is definitely a place for e-books. The textbook market seems ready made. E-books are lighter, disposable, less expensive and probably as profitable for publishers once they decide on their terms. They are also greener. Textbooks are heavy and freight costs add up. So the pubs may not gross the same gross profits, but I would think they could increase their margins.”

But, said Zook, there are likely to be fewer print books down the line, though he doesn’t think that will sink BookCourt: “I think what will ultimately lessen the number of books published and sold as real books, if anything, will be the prohibitive cost of producing and transporting them. In the meantime, though, our business is good. And that’s because we’re in a great place for books. It seems that bookselling always has a crisis on its hand: chain stores, the internet, freight costs, uneven discounting, rents, profit margins. But there are far more books published in this country in a year than when I worked in publishing in 1980. And there are many more people walking the globe that are reading.

“Last, but not least, you can’t have an ebook signed and you sure can’t show somebody your library. And since you’ve gained all your knowledge and reading experience from e-material, you’re likely not to remember as much of it.

“So time will tell. The e-market is growing. And for good reasons. I am confident that BookCourt will thrive.”

Booksellers out there, if you have some thoughts on eBooks you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them. Email eBookNewser.