Here's what large publisher Prentice Hall Books says:
The overall costs of doing business on the Web—including the costs of technology, site design and maintenance, and warehouses for fulfillment—are no lower than the costs faced by the most efficient brick and mortar stores. The start-up costs can be staggering. Attempting to achieve profitability by raising prices has often led to large customer defections. From the e-commerce merchant’s perspective, the “e” in e-commerce does not stand for “easy.”Key word? "Efficient." Being in it for the ministry and because you love the Lord is not enough. If you want to keep those doors open, you must have business savvy. It's not hard to get, so get it, because you're not serving anyone, much less the Lord, if you don't keep the lights on and the bills paid.
We'll visit this issue again in the near future. It's important. If bookstores don't survive, great publishers won't survive. The publishing world will become increasingly Darwinian (titles will have to have a more immediate apparent viability than has increasingly been the case). That means worthy books that might otherwise have gotten a nod won't even be considered. Thinks of how impoverishing that would be.
And the most important consideration? No one at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, etc., is going to a) care or b) have the slightest clue about how to answer a potential convert's question. Bookstore owners do. They provide a safe haven for people. The world will be poorer without them. We need to keep them open.