iTunes for books?

<p>Recently I wanted to buy a CD.&nbsp; It was a little bit obscure (Churning Strides by Thee, Stranded Horse) but had received some press coverage and good reviews, so I popped into my local HMV to see if they had a copy. They didn't. I had a look online, and most of the dot.com retailers had it available, but I was itching to listen to it straight away so I downloaded it from iTunes for under seven quid.</p>
<p>I really had wanted to buy a hard copy from my local record store but, for reasons of impatience and cost, ended up with a virtual version floating around my hard drive somewhere. I was playing the album within seconds of downloading it, and have burned CD copies to play in my car, kitchen and study.</p>
<p>The face of music retailing is almost unrecognisable from the days when I was a sales assistant, trying to locate CDs within shelves of cardboard sleeves behind the counter. And DVD retail (it seems pointless to call it the video industry any more) is going the same way, with downloads and streaming media knocking on the door.</p>
<p>But surely this sort of thing will never happen in our industry&mdash;will it? Well, we are already ticking many of the boxes. I would wager that most of us have left empty-handed at some time or other after trying to locate a particular book on the high street, and a high percentage will have gone home or back to the office and ordered it online.</p>
<p>If we had a viable platform for reading e-books, then is it so far-fetched to think that some of us would download that sought-after volume instead?</p>
<p>As a small publisher, we struggle to get our books routinely stocked by all the chains. Some make the grade, others just miss out, some aren't even considered. That doesn't stop us trying to publicise them&mdash;we once had a book on Richard &amp; Judy that no retailer had promoted and only a few shops had stocked&mdash;because we think that every book deserves its chance. When a book without bricks-and-mortar support does get some strong PR, the sales invariably go online, but in a few years' time, perhaps many copies will be downloaded, with readers having a copy in their hands seconds after watching the interview or reading the review.</p>
<p>It may seem far-fetched, but many publishers are already making plans for this very eventuality. In music and DVD, the customers are increasingly bypassing the high street retailer. Will our own retailers be able to cope if the threatened digital revolution comes our way?</p>