Last night, Brian Williams had a segment on NBC's Rock Center about a recent economic boom in the tiny town in Maine and it got me thinking. (Dangerous, eh?)
East Millinocket, like many other little towns in the U.S.A., had been struggling. Its main source of employment, Great Northern Paper Mill, was forced to shut down two years ago because of the huge reduction of paper needs around the country.
But a few months ago after the release of E.L. James' erotic trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey (FSoG), the book’s publisher Random House, needed lots of paper to fill the demand of thousands (actually millions at last count) of readers who apparently wanted a print version.
Barnes & Noble, one of the last bookstore chains in the country, also prospered by the sales of FSoG, both in print book sales and the Nook version.
“We continued to see improvement in both our rapidly growing NOOK business, which saw digital content sales increase 46% during the quarter, and at our bookstores, which continue to benefit from market consolidation and strong sales of the Fifty Shades series,” said Chief Executive William Lynch.
I’m surprised and in awe of the popularity of FSoG, first because of the subject matter -- I’m not against erotica, just surprised at the positive reaction -- and second, because the author should have hired a better editor, but that’s a whole other story.
But, the issue that got me thinking was how the enthusiasm for this book boosted the economy in certain ways.
Since print book publishing has gone down the tubes in recent years and eBooks are supposedly the rage of the future, this huge boom in sales may be the start of putting other people back to work.
Who, you ask? Read on.
Writers of erotic prose and romance have been struggling to find publishing firms that will take a chance on producing their books. Unless their name is Nora Roberts or ... well ... E.L. James, writers are not making a living off their book sales.
I don’t know the numbers, but many, many publishers, big and small press, have had to close their doors because of the digital age of book publishing.
"Barnes & Noble must continue to invest to introduce new products with enhanced features at prices that are the same as or lower than older, less-sophisticated devices," Barclays Capital analyst Alan Rifkin wrote in a research note.
Any reason that B&N continues as a brick and mortar operation is fine with me, but digital sales are not helpful in keeping middle employees working in the stores. They need real, live customers in order to keep their jobs.
Because of the digital age, print shops are hurting. Businesses who once sent out print newsletters, brochures, postcards, etc. to their customers are switching to online publications and the printers are suffering because of it.
I used to have mixed feelings about the digital future. The tree-hugger side of me is all for saving trees and using less paper, but my writer side, as well as being a middle-class American, was happy to hear that FSoG’s huge popularity was helping people return to their jobs.
Buy a print book today. It doesn’t have to be the Fifty Shades trilogy, any book will do. Not only will you enjoy cozying up with a good book with a nice shiny cover, you might have also put somebody back to work.
What’s your opinion?
Fifty Shades of Grey Brings Economic Boom to Maine Town. Rock Center – NBC News. Web, 28, September, 2012
"Fifty Shades of Grey" sparks marketing mania. Chicago Tribune. Web, 28, September, 2012
Barnes & Noble launches new tablets in e-books fight. Reuters International. Web. 28, September, 2012
Barnes and Noble Press release (August 21, 2012). Web, 28, September 2012.
Edited by Jody Smith