That was the question asked by local literary magazine Paper Darts as it tweeted a link to a New York Times article republished in the Star Tribune. The article notes that independent bookstores are increasingly capitalizing on the popularity of their author events—something online retailers can’t offer, in-real-life encounters with writers—by charging admission, or at least requiring a book purchase.
I’m not surprised at the news: it only makes sense, and has already been the norm for readings by very popular authors like John Irving (above, at a Minneapolis reading sponsored by Magers & Quinn in 2009). The most popular writers, like David Sedaris, can charge steep prices and fill venues like the Orpheum Theatre. Long before Amazon.com and iBooks, Charles Dickens made piles of money by selling tickets to personal appearances.
What’s most intriguing to me about the NYT article is the quote from a bookseller who’s tired of having customers come in for personal recommendations, then go home and buy books online. “‘They type titles into their iPhones and go home,’ said Nancy Salmon, floor manager at Kepler’s. ‘We know what they’re doing, and it has tested our patience.'”
Will the next frontier be charging for admission simply to enter bookstores? In the weird world of bookselling, stranger things have happened.