This is a great piece and is a good articulation of why we will continue (in whatever form) to need booksellers. The more choice we have, the fiercer the price war, the more we need a guide. A way of navigating the ocean of possible selections.
This is especially crucial in the area of fiction and why I think that fiction sales are going to come under increasing pressure as we advance deeper into digital fulfillment (of both print and digital books). Why? Because non-fiction predominantly answers a specific need while fiction caters to a general desire. Specific needs are far more amenable to search engines than vague ones. Which means that the answer to a non-fiction buying question is far more discoverable online than that of fiction.
Even now fiction is tough to publish and my view is that it is going to get much harder. Crucial to success here will be a level of attention paid as to why and how readers buy novels that will enable innovation in the way books are introduced to the market. We need to know what ‘word of mouth’ is and how to design a publication to achieve it rather than treating it as a mystical status attained by luck.
And that’s the subject I want to move into next.
Incidentally, I reckon that the relative sales success of the two genres is going to be a really interesting bellweather of the progress of the digital revolution.