[Q & A]
Ducky Waddles Emporium Survives
One of San Diego’s fine art bookstore owners talks candidly about the challenges of staying in business in today’s cyber-oriented environment.
“The proliferation of hand held hardware platforms that display e-books such as Amazon’s Kindle will render print books almost obsolete.”
A discussion with Jerry Waddle, book seller and art dealer.
Email interview by Reviewer Rob
Reviewer Rob: Hey Jerry, you mentioned a few things over the phone that I’d like for you to elaborate upon. I will try to recreate them here…
1. “The day of the independent bookstore is just about over.” Could you expand on maybe why this is exactly? Many large and established long-time San Diego bookstores have closed their doors recently. Does this worry you?
Jerry Waddle: The day of the Independant bookstore is just about over. On one hand you have the retail giants, Barnes & Noble, (800 stores), Borders, (1000 stores), Wal-Mart, (4000 stores), Costco, (350 stores) all with the buying power that allows them to purchase books for much less than the Independents pay. Then you have the on-line monster Amazon that offers retail prices on new books that are often less that the wholesale cost that Independents have to pay. Next in line are the giant used book sellers ABE (owned by Amazon), Biblio, Half.com, (owned by E-bay), Alibris, and others whose mega sellers have millions of books priced at $1.00 each but their volume is so large that they actually make a profit of about $.25 on each book but this profit comes from the S&H fee rather than the price of the book. It’s impossible to compete with these monsters.
2. “Books will not disappear, there are too many out there.” Then you mentioned electronic reading devices like Kindle. How familiar are you with these new contraptions and how are they going to play into the book market in the near future?
Books will not disappear, there are too many of them out there but there will be very little if any profit to be had in selling them. As the Independants go under, their stock that doesn’t end up in the landfill is purchased by the giant on-line vendors for pennies on the dollar and this then provides additional stock to be offered at $1.00 each. The proliferation of hand held hardware platforms that display e-books suh as Amazon’s Kindle will render print books almost obsolete. The Intel-Reader even transforms text to digital and then allows audio playback. It’s only a matter of time until technology will allow HD book illustrations to be viewed on your TV screen and if you need to print a picture you can get high quality photo reproduction from your printer downloaded directly from your hand held device. Any printing costs will be transfered from the publishers to the book buying public.
3. “My online book sales have increased, doubled this year, while my in-store business has decreased dramatically.” Where do you ship to and where are your book-buying customers geographically? How do they find you and what are they looking for?
My online book sales have increased, doubled this year, while my in-store business has decreased dramatically by as much as 80%. I ship books all over the world. My customers find me on line. I sell on ABE and on my own site and I specialize in hard to find titles and I try to price them very competitively so when a potential customer does a search they find me.
4. “I am getting rid of stock, much of it at 50% off!” What are some of the current best book or art buying values that are to be found at your store this month?
I am getting rid of stock, much of it at 50% off! Having initially priced my books competitively, discounting them by 50% makes them real bargains.
5. “Getting rid of a lot of the stuff that’s irrelevant…” Is your focus going to be art as in painting, modern illustrations, art history, cartooning, art photography, or what will you focus on with your new store?
Getting rid of a lot of the stuff that’s irrelevant… Not irrelevant in the general sense, just irrelevant to my future specialization.
6. “Ducky Waddles will be a center for cultural studies.” Tell us about this. Will you have classes, serve food? What will it be like?
Ducky Waddles will be a center for cultural studies.
In addition to my art gallery, the book store will be specializing in “The Arts”, fine art, applied arts, photography, architecture, design, fashion, graphic art, street art, body art, music, poetry, drama, etc. These are subjects that I have always covered very well. I may have the finest art book selection in San Diego County. I will be refining my stock to this end and continue to host art gallery events, poetry events, music events, lectures and discussions on topics of interest to my clientele. By doing this I hope to remain relevant to my customer base and sustain my position in the community. If my public doesn’t agree and support me then I will close my store.
While this scenario may not represent the future that Ray Bradbury prophesied in Farenheidt 451, it does feed into the dumbing down of our society that has resulted from the inability of our public school sytem to adequately educate our young people. Kids don’t read books, they watch TV, movies, and play video games. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “A book is a book. How many more do you have to look at?”
Thanks for everything, Jerry, for all you’ve done for local literary and art culture and for all you will continue to do in the future! ~RR
Visit Ducky Waddle’s Emporium
brick & mortar:
414 North Coast Highway 101
Encinitas, CA 92024-2529