Why do I feel I am working in a heritage industry?

OK. I admit it. I'm a glass half-empty kind of guy and, given that, working in the book trade isn't often the best environment!

I suspect if I had access to accurate figures (open to the floor if you do) that the number of people employed as booksellers has fallen in the UK over the last ten years. I'm quite liberal about what is defined as a bookseller, I don't mind what the channel is or what format you're selling. I also suspect that, although it has fallen, the actual proportion of sales made via booksellers has stayed pretty static – so that e.g. publishers selling direct hasn't increased significantly, despite the perceived ability to disintermediate via the internet.

Yes, of course, we have seen channel shift as have many industries. However, we still have a few significant high street bookselling chains in the UK and a good number of excellent independent stores. Online book retail now takes several different forms and we have seen a significant amount of innovation, whether that be through larger players such as Amazon or through people building apps for the iPhone to distribute books that way.

I don't believe there is any such thing as a mature industry. Often you'll see this phrase used when incumbents see falling profit and sales, and yet transformations often happen when those from outside start to take an interest. Technology has opened up the trade to many new pressures and opportunities and there is much discussion of how this can be used within the publishing world. This is all very positive: some ideas will work, others won't.

However within bookselling increasingly I feel like I'm working in some sort of heritage industry with a mindset that is debilitating and unhelpful.

I believe that – in effect - bookselling is more efficient now than it has ever been. Opportunities abound in trying to get the greatest number of titles to the greatest number of people on Earth.

Everyone talks a great deal about eBooks at the moment, but the discussion seems very much driven by publishers rather than by booksellers. Yet should we wish to grow this format then the unique focus that booksellers bring will be essential to making it work. Having recently launched The Book Depository's eBook offering, I now understand in a great deal of detail the challenges readers go though to purchase, open and read these titles. DRM and format needs to have booksellers' involvement at the very beginning as we have a connection to readers and a focus that talking to them daily brings.

Booksellers aren't part of the conversation anymore and they need to be.

Booksellers should be the reader-interface specialists, so that when new ways to interact with the catalogue emerge, that they are the experts able to define how this should work, not just in usability terms but also in one that understands what the reader needs to find what they want, and engineer serendipity as well.

The expert position should also enable innovation - but this position isn't going to be granted  noblesse oblige by publishers or readers, it is going to have to be forcibly wrestled back by a newly found belief in what we, as booksellers, can deliver.