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April 13th, 2009 at 10:15 am

Interview with Ted Striphas at Conversational Reading

Ted Striphas, Late Age of PrintConversational Reading has posted a fascinating interview with Ted Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumption to Control.

In the interview Striphas discusses several interesting issues from the book including, the book as an quintessential capitalist good and the changing notions of copyright in today’s digital world. He also expresses some misgivings about Amazon’s ability to monitor customer purchases as well as the company’s questionable labor practices. (See also today’s story about Amazon removing several Gay & Lesbian titles from its sales ranks.)

The future of independent bookstores and the debate on whether or not Oprah is good for literature are also discussed in the interview. Striphas argues that complaints about Oprah can be short-sighted and rely on fixed ways of thinking about how and what one should read. Bookstores could also perhaps learn something from Oprah and Striphas offers some other thoughts about what “traditional” bookstores need to do in order to survive:

To be blunt about it, traditional bookstores cannot compete with Amazon.com unless they’re prepared to abandon the mantle of the “traditional” bookstore—by which I mean, a retail outlet where something more than an economic calculus holds sway. Nevertheless, I would suggest that they make more of an issue of Amazon’s data policies, while doing their best to ensure their own client confidentiality. Traditional bookstores also might take on more of an educative function as well, along the lines of what I mentioned above in discussing the success of Oprah’s Book Club. Finally, traditional bookstores must recognize that they cannot simply rest on tradition, and that more and more people have come to expect both off- and online bookselling experiences. What this means is that, where possible, they’ll need to invest in digital infrastructures that allow their customers to interact with the store and with one another wherever they may happen to be on the network. IndieBound is an important, if still somewhat limited, step in the right direction.

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