Can Bookstores Survive? 25 Influential Authors Tell All

Can Bookstores Survive? 25 Influential Authors Tell All

Can bookstores survive in the era of ebooks and ecommerce?

Dramatic changes in the publishing industry have impacted the way authors, even influential authors, get their books to readers. Traditional book publishing and retail models have been battered by the rise of online retailers. The ebook revolution has given us more books to choose from, so much so that books are easily lost in the virtual churn.

Many brick-and-mortar bookstores, including the US-based Borders chain, have closed in recent years, unable to compete or adjust. Will we see more closings in the years to come, or will bookstores innovate in order to stay relevant and solvent?

I reached out to fellow authors and was amazed at the variety of responses. Read on for some surprising views on the future of the bookstore. (Note: comments arranged in alphabetical order by author last name, so yes, I got to go first.)

 

Carmen Amato, author of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and the EMILIA CRUZ mystery series

http://carmenamato.net

The ebook format, driven by Amazon’s Kindle platform and subscription services like Oyster, will become the industry standard for books that are mostly text. As a result, bookstores will no longer derive a significant percentage of revenue from fiction. Bookstores that survive will increasingly focus on non-fiction books that don’t lend themselves to ebook formats, such as manga/comics, design (art, photography, shelter) books, cookbooks, science and technology volumes, etc, as well as vintage books for collectors.

Bookstores will also have to rethink their spaces because they simply won’t be able to afford the square footage. Successful ones will partner imaginatively with other retailers, such as art galleries, clothing boutiques, kitchen stores, and even gaming stores to sell wares in shared spaces arranged to provide an optimal sensory experience that is unavailable online. The key will be to curate the books on offer to match the partners’ products and target the same customer. Other partnerships could be with hotels or museums. Bookstores will use their spaces to host events and be part of a local community.

To make this happen, however, traditional book distribution has to change and become more flexible. Store owners have a universe of books to choose from, but as long as they are tied to an inflexible distribution system, they’ll be unable to offer books which could help keep them afloat.  Article author.

G.G. Atcheson, author of THE LEGACY: FATE

Bookstores will become small kiosks like the ones that sell print pictures on demand. Users will go to those places to order a print of their favorite book(s) in the format and size of their choice. They will also bring people together to talk about those books over a hot cup of coffee. Via website comment form, 5 November 2013.

Susan M. Boyer, author of the Liz Talbot Mystery Series including LOWCOUNTRY BOIL and LOWCOUNTRY BOMBSHELL

http://www.susanmboyerbooks.com

Independent bookstores [will] leverage strong customer relationships and serve as social hubs for book lovers, offering meeting space for book clubs, luncheons with author speakers, and other opportunities for readers to connect and spend time with friends who share an interest in books. I also believe the staff of these stores will continue to provide personal service, an area in which they’ve traditionally excelled. Online sales of autographed books are another avenue some stores are already pursuing.  Via website comment form, 11 November 2013.

Dale Brown, author of 21 action-adventure “techno-thriller” novels including FLIGHT OF THE OLD DOG, SILVER TOWER, DAY OF THE CHEETAH, HAMMERHEADS, and the DREAMLAND series.

http://www.dalebrown.info/index02.htm

I haven’t been in a bookstore to buy a book since I discovered Amazon Books in 1996.

I don’t think book sales will be much affected by whatever happens to brick-and-mortar bookstores because it’s so easy and convenient to get a book these days, and with the Internet you don’t need to browse through a bookstore’s shelves to find a new release from a favorite author–Facebook, Twitter, a Web site, or the blogosphere will inform you.

My Mom and my in-laws would certainly have disagreed with me and continued going to bookstores or Wal-Mart every couple weeks to see what’s new…until they got their Kindles. Now their e-readers are constant companions, getting a book is as simple as pressing a button, and all they want for Christmas is an Amazon gift card so they can buy more books to download!

I know and recently met many people at the La Jolla Writer’s Conference who simply love books and bookstores, and little neighborhood independent booksellers who cater to their customers with comfortable chairs, plenty of light, booksignings, e-mails about new releases and events, and maybe some coffee will always be favorites. Of course big bookstores can have this too, but driving to a crowded mall and getting lost in a multi-story maze is not my idea of fun.

In an age of digital everything, ultra-realistic video games, and 3-D movies, I think folks will still want to read, so us authors won’t be out of a job just yet. Besides, someone has to write the scripts and advertising copy for all those games and movies, right?  Email to author, 8 November 2013.

Diane Capri, author of the HUNT FOR JACK REACHER series, including DON’T KNOW JACK and GET BACK JACK

http://dianecapri.com

As you can imagine, the topic is one of intense interest and importance to writers and readers alike. Bookstores are magical places and keeping them alive and healthy is good for all of us.

It is challenging to operate a bookstore, particularly if the owners need to make a profit. Many bookstores are started as a labor of love. Sometimes, the owners are not focused on making money as much as creating a pleasurable experience for themselves and others.

In my view, successful bookstores of the future must not focus on price and delivery. These two features are rarely, if ever, going to favor the brick and mortar store over the online store.

Where physical bookstores can excel is in customer service, unique experiences, and specialized inventory not easily or readily obtainable to customers. Author appearances, signed first editions, reader/customer centric offerings and more will create customer loyalty. After all, customer loyalty is what keeps us coming back to our favorite stores everywhere, isn’t it?  Email to author, 15 November 2013.

Bernard Cornwell, author of the RICHARD SHARPE adventure series, THE STARBUCK CHRONICLES series, THE GRAIL QUEST series, and other historical action novels  

http://www.bernardcornwell.net/

My fear is that bookshops will go the way of music shops, which would mean the end of the big chains and the ‘hold on by your fingertips’ survival of a few specialist dealers. Already much of the book trade has moved into supermarkets, and I suspect that trend will continue, which is sad because the big supermarkets will only stock a limited range of titles – a very limited range. But we are inexorably headed into digital books and the pace will quicken, and that also puts into question the role of publishers, god bless them. How do you publicize books in the digital age? I don’t know. I’m just glad I started writing 35 years ago when bookshops were the main route to a reader’s consciousness.  My guess is that ‘social media’ will be the primary means of drawing attention to books which exist only in electronic form – and people who want physical copies will use ‘print-on-demand’.  Email to author, 20 November 2013.

L. H. Davis III, author of THE EMPORIUM, OUTPOST EARTH, ALIEN RENDEZVOUS

http://LHDavisWriter.com

Start with the B&N motif: WiFi, food, drink, and the aroma of real books. Add: Online booths, private coves, and stuff it all in an English pub, which holds beer and wine tastings on weekends and book promotions. Add: Video cove/wall for E-book advertisements and promotions. Via website comment form, 5 November 2013.

Kristin Elise, author of THE VESUVIUS ISOTOPE and the KATRINA STONE novels

http://www.kristenelisephd.com

Even traditional publishers now expect authors to heavily self-promote, and this grass-roots marketing is fast becoming the new industry driver. We see more and more examples of books becoming best-sellers without any real backing by a big publishing house. So, as authors become more savvy at selling their own work, I think that readers will increasingly get into the habit of going to a bookstore to request a book that they heard a lot about, rather than going into the bookstore just to browse and then buy what they see. This, in turn, could change the content of bookstores: Instead of every bookstore worldwide containing basically the same selection, I would imagine that different bookstores could adopt a “regional” flavor, filling up with the works of authors who are popular in that geographic area – local authors, books set in that location, or who otherwise call attention to the region. Wouldn’t that be fun? Via website comment form, 12 November 2013.

A. W. Exley, author of NEFERTITI’S HEART

http://www.awexley.com

I think they will become smaller but service a niche, perhaps as far as specializing in only a few genres. Readers are still social and e-book buying does not fulfill our sensory needs. I can see bookstores with arm chairs, coffee service and nooks to discuss what you are reading in a small intimate atmosphere. Via website comment form, 5 November 2013.

Tim Grahl, author of YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIES: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book

Business: outthinkgroup.com; Book: first1000copies.com

Bookstores of the future will be what record stores are now. While there will still be people that like to buy and read print books, they will be a collectors item more than the main way books are consumed. While I have a nostalgic connection to print books, my kids (and especially their kids) won’t.  Email to author, 5 December 2013

Norm Hamilton, author of FROM THINE OWN WELL

http://www.normhamilton.ca/writer

Brick and Mortar locations cannot compete through attempting to provide the same, dollar-based offering that drives the online retailers.

The bookstore of the future will, by its very nature, become a focal point and destination for like-minded individuals to gather, share cherished moments, and revel in the company of great books.

Warm, comfortable settings, in smaller, intimate locals with inviting chairs and couches for sitting and reading, will entice and attract the readers of the future as they search for the coziness and sanctuary that is to be found only between the covers of a great book. Via website comment form, 7 November 2013.

Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book; ENCHANTMENT: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions; and 10 other non-fiction books

http://www.guykawasaki.com

I really don’t know about the future of bookstores. The future of books, however, is going to be tablets and pads other than coffee-table books. It’s hard to imagine that people will go to stores to buy ebooks, but there’s more to a bookstore than just buying books—e.g., socializing, eating, and listening to authors. Email to author, 12 November 2013.

Joe Konrath, author of the JACK DANIELS series, the CODENAME: CHANDLER series, and other fast action thrillers

[I predict] the end of Barnes & Noble as we know it. In 2014, paper book sales will no longer be significant enough to sustain the nation’s largest bookstore chain. There may be bankruptcy and restructuring and the selling of assets (like the Nook), but ultimately it will result in many stores closing, and possibly the demise of the brand . . .

Indie bookstores will need to start selling self-pubbed books, or perish. Paper isn’t going away anytime soon. But there won’t be enough of a legacy supply that will keep the necessary number of diverse titles on shelves to make indie stores a worthwhile destination for shoppers. If indie bookstores deal directly with self-pubbed authors, and print their own copies to sell in their stores, they can build inventory and cut out the share normally taken by publishers.  “Konrath’s Publishing Predictions 2014,” jakonrath.blogspot.com, 28 December 2013.

Agustin D. Martinez, author of THE MARES OF LENIN PARK

https://www.facebook.com/TheMaresOfLeninPark

While technology has advanced, there is always something special about the feel of paper between my fingers and the sound of the pages rubbing together as they flip. The smell of an old yellowed tome makes me sneeze, but the sensory memories that come with that aroma remind me so much of my childhood. What will spur memories of a great book for our children when they grow to be as old as we are now? Does an iPad have a smell? Will the speaker emit a whoosh as the page on the screen turns?

The brick-and-mortar bookstore is a place to spend a few hours, a destination when the mood struck one to read something interesting and entertaining. It is full of items you never knew you wanted to read until you turned down a random aisle and found it beckoning you to open its cover and get lost in its pages. Without these, where will authors sign a first edition? Will author visits be conducted over Skype or podcasts only? Will print editions of books even exist in a 10 years? I think some sort of brick-and-mortar venue must still exist no matter where technology takes us, whether that be a corner independent bookstore where authors still come to read excerpts of their work, or coffee shops with free wi-fi where readers can sit and enjoy a warm beverage. I would hate for these to ever go away!  Email to author, 12 November 2013.

Elizabeth A. Martina, author of THE RAGMAN MURDERS

http://www.lanternariuspress.net

Brick and mortar stores will have fewer paper books and more kiosks where books will be featured in ebook format. The books will be able to be downloaded to the customers ereaders or computers at the store.  Via website comment form, 5 November 2013

Bob Mayer, author of the SHADOW WARRIORS series, the GREEN BERETS series, the AREA 51 series and numerous other action-adventure titles

http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/

Bookstores?  Like publishers, agents and others in the business, most failed to have a strategic business plan. Did they watch what happened to music stores starting in 2001 when digital tsunamied that industry?  No.

For the future?  Embrace genre authors. Frankly, the snobbish attitude I’ve encountered over the years from many indie stores leaves me unconcerned about their future as they were unconcerned about mine.  Can they change that attitude in time?  Will they order and rack POD books via Createspace from authors like me and others who’ve embraced the future?  Or will they whine that Amazon is their deadly enemy and continue that futile, and stupid, battle?  As Jeff Bezos said:  “Complaining is not a strategy.” The bottom line is that authors will totally support bookstores when that support is extended the other way.  Email to author, 4 December 2013.

Emily McDaid, author of TETHERBIRD

The bookstore of the future will offer both an online and a bricks and mortar presence, combining the ease of Amazon with the carefully curated selection of an independent bookstore. It will be a haven to go and read, and to select good quality books, either in physical copy or digitally, however the customer prefers to read. It will mimic the immersion of the reading experience– what makes reading truly magical– and wrap that into the browsing experience. Via website comment form, 7 November 2013.

Brian Meeks, author of the HENRY WOOD DETECTIVE series, A TOUCH TO DIE FOR, and other mystery titles

I like the idea you mentioned of ebook Kiosks combined with coffee house feel. I love paper books, but reading them has become more hassle than it’s worth. Most of what I read now, I read on my Kindle app on my phone. It’s always with me and is easy.

Still, if bookstores were a place to hang out, then I’d gladly make my ebook purchases through them.

From an author’s standpoint, I’d rather people bought Kindle versions, but it would be nice if they bought them through a kiosk at a bookshop. Via website comment form, 11 November 2013.

Sandra Nikolai, author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series including FALSE IMPRESSIONS and FATAL WHISPERS

http://sandranikolai.com

The future bookstore will provide a well-lit space, comfortable chairs, a coffee bar, informed staff, and online shopping for e-books and physical books. Bookstores will partner with the community to promote local author events and other cultural events. Purchase incentives: individual and group discounts, periodic sales, and availability of other items like paper products and artwork.  Via website comment form, 11 November 2013.

 Ann Patchett, author of BEL CANTO, STATE OF WONDER, THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE, and other titles

 There’s this feeling that Amazon is killing the bookstore. And the eBook has gotten an enormous amount of press, to the point where people are saying, ‘So I guess it’s over.’ And it’s like, ‘No, it’s not.’ I’m standing up and saying no, the book is alive, the bookstore is alive.

I am speaking for bookstores all across the country. These people are my friends. These are the people who welcome me into their stores for readings, who take me home and cook me dinner and let me sleep in their guest rooms. These people have made me, made my career, made me what I am. So now I can say, ‘Go and support your local bookstore.’ What an enormous privilege that is for me.  Time Entertainment interview, 25 November 2011.

Dominae Primus, author of ABSOLUTELY DONE, SECOND CHANCES, and DAILY DOSES & VITAL VERSES

http://dominaeprimus.blogspot.com

The future bookstore will offer digital and print options whereby people have a choice of buying a digital copy if a print copy is unavailable and vice-versa. Some may opt for both. Every author and publisher regardless of independents or major brand names have equal access to the same pool of readers/buyers.  Via website comment form, 5 November 2013. 

Jane Rosenthal, author of PALACE OF THE BLUE BUTTERFLY

http://www.mexiconovels.com

Surveys show that only one third of people who purchase books from bookstores walk in with that intention. The bookstore of the future like art galleries and boutiques will have to provide products, services and experiences—readings, classes— that are unique, rare, and highly-curated, so that customers react with strong impulses to make purchases lest those objects, in this case books, be unavailable later.

Self-publishers could take advantage of this by offering the content of their novel cheaply on Amazon while offering signed, exquisitely produced books through niche bookstores.  Via website comment form, 11 November 2013.

Matthew Wayne Selznick, author of THE CHARTERS DUOLOGY: TWO NOVELS OF THE SOVEREIGN ERA, including BRAVE MEN RUN and PILGRIMAGE

 We have another chance to realize the dream of the Third Place with the bookstore of the future by placing the emphasis on building community around a love of books and other entertainment and information products. Until the industry abandons the returns cycle, the bookstore of the future can offset operating costs by taking advantage of just-in-time and on-demand technology like the Espresso Book Machine, as well as the buying and browsing habits of Generation Y (the largest book-buying demographic). Email to author, 6 November 2013.

Glenn Starkey, author of AMAZON MOON

http://GlennStarkey.net

Future bookstores will be a blend of traditional and indie published/ printed books with each having their own half of the store. I believe there will also be an e-book section as well with cover art and flap copy for readers to browse, and an ability to purchase the work in the store. Once book stores open themselves to signings by all authors, and develop a comfortable environment to relax in, readers will want to visit more.  Via website comment form, 11 November 2013.

Khaled Talib, author of the thrillers SMOKESCREEN and GUN KISS

http://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Muses-Khaled-Talib-ebook/dp/B00DY7FAEM

It would be nice to retain the old time charm of a traditional bookstore in the digital world. After all, a bookstore isn’t just a place to sell reading materials. It is a swimming pool for the soul.  Via website comment form, 7 November 2013.

Find all the Bookstore of the Future series posts in the #noticed category

Can Bookstores Survive? 3 Differing Points of View

Can Bookstores Survive? 3 Differing Points of View

There’s a huge range of opinions out there when it comes to the future of bookstores.

I’ve been asking fellow authors, publishing insiders, book bloggers, and others about the future of bookstores. With the ever-growing strength of ebooks, the closing of the Borders chain, and Barnes and Nobles’ struggles against Amazon’s market domination, what will bookstores do?

These 3 authors each have a singular point of view about books and bookstores, some of which may surprise you. Read the full set of responses from 25 authors here.

Bob Mayer, author of the SHADOW WARRIORS series, the GREEN BERETS series, the AREA 51 series and numerous other action-adventure titles, http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/

Bookstores?  Like publishers, agents and others in the business, most failed to have a strategic business plan. Did they watch what happened to music stores starting in 2001 when digital tsunamied that industry?  No.

For the future?  Embrace genre authors. Frankly, the snobbish attitude I’ve encountered over the years from many indie stores leaves me unconcerned about their future as they were unconcerned about mine.  Can they change that attitude in time?  Will they order and rack POD books via Createspace from authors like me and others who’ve embraced the future?  Or will they whine that Amazon is their deadly enemy and continue that futile, and stupid, battle?  As Jeff Bezos said:  “Complaining is not a strategy.” The bottom line is that authors will totally support bookstores when that support is extended the other way.  Email to author, 4 December 2013.

Dale Brown, author of FLIGHT OF THE OLD DOG, DALE BROWN’S DREAMLAND, etc., www.dalebrown.info/index02.htm

dfbphoto

I haven’t been in a bookstore to buy a book since I discovered Amazon Books in 1996.

I don’t think book sales will be much affected by whatever happens to brick-and-mortar bookstores because it’s so easy and convenient to get a book these days, and with the Internet you don’t need to browse through a bookstore’s shelves to find a new release from a favorite author–Facebook, Twitter, a Web site, or the blogosphere will inform you.

My Mom and my in-laws would certainly have disagreed with me and continued going to bookstores or Wal-Mart every couple weeks to see what’s new…until they got their Kindles. Now their e-readers are constant companions, getting a book is as simple as pressing a button, and all they want for Christmas is an Amazon gift card so they can buy more books to download!

I know and recently met many people at the La Jolla Writer’s Conference who simply love books and bookstores, and little neighborhood independent booksellers who cater to their customers with comfortable chairs, plenty of light, booksignings, e-mails about new releases and events, and maybe some coffee will always be favorites. Of course big bookstores can have this too, but driving to a crowded mall and getting lost in a multi-story maze is not my idea of fun.

In an age of digital everything, ultra-realistic video games, and 3-D movies, I think folks will still want to read, so us authors won’t be out of a job just yet. Besides, someone has to write the scripts and advertising copy for all those games and movies, right? Email to author, 8 November 2013.

Sandra Nikolai, author of FALSE IMPRESSIONS, FATAL WHISPERS, www.sandranikolai.com/

Sandra Nikolai

The future bookstore will provide a well-lit space, comfortable chairs, a coffee bar, informed staff, and online shopping for e-books and physical books. Bookstores will partner with the community to promote local author events and other cultural events. Purchase incentives: individual and group discounts, periodic sales, and availability of other items like paper products and artwork.

Read all of the Bookstore of the Future posts in the #noticed category

Can Business Partnerships Save the Bookstore?

Can Business Partnerships Save the Bookstore?

Business partnerships maximize resources and leverage each partner’s audience and strengths. Could business partnerships save the bricks-and-mortar bookstore as well?

This article is part of my Bookstore of the Future Project in which I’m asking a simple question and posing it to authors, book bloggers, publishers, and store owners:

In the age of ebooks and ecommerce what should bookstores look like in order to stay relevant and solvent?

The answers, both disturbing and hopeful, will be compiled into a series of articles. As I research the state of bookstores today, partnerships have come up many times and there may be some good ideas to be found in the discussion.

What do Successful Business Partnerships look Like?

In an ideal business partnership, the audience for one product or service is predisposed to like the partner product or service, and both businesses benefit. Here are a couple to think about:

photo courtesy of camaro5.com

photo courtesy of camaro5.com

Hawaii 5-0 and Chevy:  If you have ever seen an episode of Hawaii 5-0, you know the show has a partnership with Chevrolet. All of the 5-0 detectives drive Chevy vehicles, with the showcase car being Danny’s Camaro. The cars get almost as much screen time as Alex O’Loughlin’s bare torso and the show’s dialogue often includes a casual remark about low gas consumption or sweet cornering. But the real impact is off-screen. Not only have Hawaiian Chevy dealers gotten a boost but there are dozens of blogs and articles about the show’s cars and tie-ins, all of which is good word-of-mouth for the Chevy brand.

High Street fashion designers and Target: The capsule collections by big name designers like Missoni, Philip Lim, and Prabal Gurung give everybody a boost: the big name designer is able to reach a wider audience with a highly profitable venture, Target differentiates itself from competition like Walmart and Kohl’s, and customers get labels they could not otherwise afford. In fact the capsule collections have proven so popular that the Target website actually crashed in 2011 when the Missoni collection premiered. Here’s an article from Target about designers competing to be part of the trend.

Land o’ Lakes and University of Minnesota: There are many examples of collaborations between universities and businesses out there but this internship story resonates because the school and the business have roots in the local community. Internships are amazing partnerships; students seek out schools that give them great internships which are resume-worthy work experiences. Those students have a head start when job hunting after graduation. The businesses get to evaluate potential hires without a high cost or commitment. A win all around.

Business Partnerships for Bookstores?

The bookstore with a partnership might look a lot different than a space with only books in it, with a few cards or bookmarks thrown in for good measure. Here are a few examples the book industry could build on:

photo courtesy of shopwillowbend.com

photo courtesy of shopwillowbend.com

Books and Fashion: Both Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters are trendy, upscale stores with a dedicated fan base. Fashion is the main product line for both stores, but a shopper will also find home goods like quilts and painted knobs in Anthropologie and funky chalkboards in Urban Outfitters. And both carry books geared to their shopper demographics and the overall vibe of the store. The Urban Outfitter in Cambridge, MA, had a terrific collection of humor, art, and design books when I was there last year, and Anthropologie stores can usually be relied upon to have cookbooks, shelter, fashion, gift books, and journals.

Books and Museums: The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is one of the best places to go for aviation-themed books. The bookstore in the Udvar-Hazy Center of the museum in Dulles, VA quickly sells out of titles and it is not uncommon to walk by empty shelves. Across the pond, the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge University, UK, is part think tank, part museum, and part bookstore which features books by and about polar explorers. Most of the titles are hard-to-find or unique books that are sold both at the institute and online via the institute’s website.

Books and Hotels: As this New York Times article shows, people who stay at hotels might want something to read. While the article talks about a library, a capsule bookstore can also cater to that audience. From my own experience, one of my own favorite bookstore discoveries was the shop-within-a-shop at the Sheraton Bijao Resort in Panama.

Why Not Partnerships?

If business partnerships are such hot stuff, why don’t we see more of them in the book industry? The answer might lie in the traditional ways most print books are distributed and the volume of books that big distributors want a book retailer to purchase. A retail space that is a partnership of products like books and fashion, won’t have the sales volume a big distributor would want.

Could independent authors and small publishers be the logical answer for partnerships? Yes, but only if book quality matches the non-book partner’s wares. Plus, everyone must have the patience to deal with multiple producers rather than just one big book vendor.

Read all of the  Bookstores of the Future posts in the #noticed category

3 Innovating Bookstores Turning Pages and Heads

3 Innovating Bookstores Turning Pages and Heads

plus and bulbAs I mentioned last week, I’ve been giving the notion of the Bookstore of the Future some thought. Over the next 6 weeks I will be collecting ideas from authors, book bloggers, publishers and book store owners on the topic of how bookstores can innovate in order to stay relevant and solvent in the era of ebooks and ecommerce.

A planned series of 5 articles will pose the question to authors, book bloggers, publishers and bookstore owners. Each article will feature a single group’s collected responses and a final fifth article will compile the most innovative answers across each respondent group.

Related post: 5 Ways to Save What Matters

The October edition of Monocle magazine profiled innovative retailers around the world, including bookstores in Spain, Japan and the UK. Each is approaching their market sector with innovative ideas; the sort of ideas that I hope my Bookstore of the Future series can spark as well. All quotes are from the October edition of Monocle.

1. La Central Bookshops, Spain

This mid-sized chain has stores in Barcelona and Madrid where local staff handpick titles and are trained to tailor specific sections to the demands” of the local communities, meaning that not all books will be sold in all La Central stores. The stores also provide services that draw in locals including gift shops, cafes, and book clubs, as well as online ordering. While the stores are sizable, the ambiance shies away from the warehouse look with many books presented upright and at an angle on display tables.

2. Tsutaya, Japan

Here is a very innovative partnership: the Tsutaya book retailer now runs the public library in the city of Takeo. One space shares both a traditional library lending area as well as a retail section that includes a Starbucks. Is it working? More people visited the library in the first 3 months after the dual space opened in April 2012 than had in the previous 12 months. The bookseller pays for 50% of the library’s salaries.

3. Foyle’s, United Kingdom

Venerable London bookstore Foyle’s is reinventing itself with a new space in an art college. The new bookstore will focus on the customer’s sensory experience with an atrium and four stories that will include art exhibition spaces, music venues and a cafe. The company consulted “authors, librarians, book sellers and literary agents about their vision for the space,” convinced that a bricks-and-mortar bookstore has the edge when it comes to book discoverability.

Read all of the Bookstores of the Future posts in the #noticed category

 

Ebook vs Print: Enough Already and Here’s Why

interesting compassAs both an author and an avid reader I’m often asked what now seems like an age-old question: ebooks or print? The question implies that I find one superior to the other. Often, the person asking already has an opinion and wants to know if my opinion matches.

Well, it doesn’t and here’s why. The answer is BOTH.

Both ebooks and print have multiple advantages.  Based on circumstances, one format may hold more of an advantage than another for the reader at a certain point in time.

A reader should have the option of seizing the advantage that is most suitable for the circumstance at hand and move between formats without having to swear an oath of allegiance to either.

So let’s examine the evidence, as the characters in my books occasionally say, and compare the advantages of both formats.

Ebooks:

  • Portable and lightweight: This is important if you want to take several books on a long trip, or move household effects with a weight limit.
  • Cost and access: Ebooks are typically cheaper, faster to obtain, and many are free. Ebooks can be downloaded around the world which is great if you live somewhere without a bookstore or in a foreign country where English-language books are few and far in between.

Print:

  • Display and physicality: Books with pictures can be gorgeous personal statements, reference volumes, and home decor. Antique books carry their history with them and are powerful reminders of the past. First editions and signed books are valid collector’s items.
  • Selection: Handling a book, reading the back cover, sneaking a look at the last page, getting the author’s autograph on a paper copy–these are all things that help us select books and discover new authors.

I’m sure there are other advantages to each format and if you can think of some, leave a comment. But for now, enough with the ebook vs print question. I’m going to turn on my Kindle and finish reading the latest Swedish mystery, while trying not to be distracted by the 2000 or so books lining the shelves next to me.

3 Compelling Lessons from The Lone Ranger

Were the critics right when they proclaimed The Lone Ranger a flop? I like to judge these things for myself so when the movie came to my local theater (as El Llanero Solitario with Spanish subtitles) my daughter and I went to decide.

Reminiscent of The Lone RangerRight off we noticed a few things. First, in the subtitles, Tonto’s name was changed to Toro, probably for good reason. Tonto means “silly” in Spanish while Toro means “bull.” If you were sharp you noticed the last thing The Lone Ranger says to Tonto as they are riding off into the sunset: “Do you know what your name means in Spanish?” (We were the only ones in the theater who laughed.)

Second, we liked several things about the movie: the banter between The Lone Ranger and Tonto, the banter between Tonto and the horse, the definition of Kemosabe as “wrong brother,” the two little boys who had pivotal secondary roles.

But as we walked out of the theater we both confessed to feeling uneasy. The movie, despite it’s big budget quality and obvious Disney imprimatur, just felt wrong.

Here are 3 lessons from how The Lone Ranger went awry.

 1. Decide your focus and stick with it. In this case, make The Princess Bride OR Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee OR 3:10 to Yuma. Don’t try to make them all at once.

The only vehicle that had success stuffing comedy, race relations, and war into one package was MASH and that show had over a decade in which to do it. Moreover, Frank Burns was the kook inside the tribe and the nutty insider is more fun than the sad castaway like Tonto.

I genuinely thought we had a Princess Bride-esque thing going—reinforced by the storytelling bit reminiscent of Peter Falk reading to a sniffly Fred Savage–until the horrible bad guy eats the heart of his live victim and I knew there would be no storming the castle tonight.

2.  Don’t start what you can’t finish. One of the things that made The Lone Ranger such a long movie was the array of unresolved subplots and logic chains left dangling. Why is the bad guy a cannibal? Why does The Lone Ranger’s brother have such an unhappy marriage?

And the most annoying subplot of all concerns Red, madam of the local brothel. She had been a ballet dancer and one of the bad guys is responsible for her having lost a leg? Why? How? Beyond all that, why doesn’t Tonto ever get to be happy? Why isn’t the live crow with him in the end? What the heck was that scene of an old Tonto stumbling in the desert during the credits supposed to mean?

It would have been better to have fewer odd bits in the movie and be able to tie them all up neatly.

3. Make your finale understandable. I loved the big climax, the swelling William Tell Overture, the white horse on the roof, the excitement of the two racing trains. But by the time the second train car decoupled both my daughter and I had lost track (pun intended) of who was on which train, where each train was headed, and if The Lone Ranger and Tonto were working together or separately.

It ended well, but was simply too confusing.

Sooooo, are the lessons from The Lone Ranger just for moviemakers?

No. These lessons are universal for any creative endeavor, whether it is finishing a report, throwing a birthday party, writing a book, or designing a fashion show.

Did you see The Lone Ranger? What lessons did you take away from it?

10 Twitter Voices on Mexico and the Mystery Series that is Listening

Twitter logoInspiration for the Emilia Cruz mystery series’ sharp edges and complicated plot lines comes from two sources: my own experiences living in Mexico and Central America, and the authentic and multi-faceted stories about Mexico told by some of today’s most articulate voices trending on Twitter.

Here are 10 “Tweeps” I routinely read to get up-to-date information about Mexico. They’re a mix of cultural observers, expatriates, journalists, and writers. Their viewpoints don’t always coincide and they may have differing agendas when it comes to Mexico, but their Twitter trending content is always interesting and thought-provoking.

@AllAboutPuebla  Rebecca Smith Hurd writes the All About Puebla blog; a happy compendium of life, art, culture, and events in and around Mexico’s 4th largest city. Incidentally, Puebla is the hometown of protagonist Eduardo Cortez Castillo in THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY.

@MexicoInstitute  The Mexico Institute is part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan, non-advocacy forum engaged in the study of national and world affairs. Tweets link back to articles on the Institute’s website which deal relations between the US and Mexico and events and issues which impact them.

 @ajcorchado  Alfredo Corchado is the Mexico Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News and a Harvard Nieman Fellow. His memoir, MIDNIGHT IN MEXICO, was released earlier this year.

@AndrewChesnut1  Andrew Chesnut is a professor of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and writes extensively on the Santa Muerte phenomenon for Huffington Post and other current events outlets. He explores Santa Muerte and more on the site skeletonsaint.com.

@shannonkoneil  Shannon K. O’Neil is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of TWO NATIONS INDIVISIBLE about the US and Mexico. Her tweets and retweets focus on strategic views of what is happening in Mexico and with the bilateral relationship.

@el_reportero  David Agren is a Canadian freelance journalist in Mexico City whose reporting has appeared in USA TODAY, Catholic News Service and Maclean’s magazine. He is on top of numerous issues and is a prolific tweeter, managing to get loads of information—such as voting results–and local flavor into 140 characters.

@foxnewslatino  Fox takes a neutral tone when reporting on many issues about and affecting Mexico. Tweets all link back to the Fox News Latino news site and besides regional reporting include broad-based current events i.e. flavor of the day.

@MexicoRetold  Susannah Rigg is a British freelance writer based in picturesque Oaxaca who uses the tagline “There’s more to Mexico than Meets the Media.” She is very active on Twitter discussing cultural issues and promotes the hashtag #fortheloveofmexico.

@mexicoguide  Suzanne Barbezat is a travel writer living in Oaxaca who is the host of the Mexico Travel sub-site for the About.com news channel. She is a #MexChat co-host, which brings those interested in Mexico together for moderated twitter discussions.

@TheMexLondoner  The Mexican Londoner offers a totally unique take on Mexico—one that is seen from a distance and flavored by life in the UK. The Twitter stream is a mix of interesting news retweets, events in London with a Mexican flavor, and a bilingual newsletter for Mexicans living in London.

The Friday Fiesta: Travel with a Filmmaker, A Camera, Disappearing Destinations, and Titanic II

husky with suitcaseAs a fiction and mystery author I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America. But online travel is also a  terrific way to discover news and places worth celebrating. Let this review turn your Friday into a fiesta!

Life Tips from a Director

Director of Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild Benh Zeitlin talked to Filmmaker Magazine and while you might think this doesn’t have any relevance for you—especially if you didn’t see the movie which didn’t star any Hollywood big names. But the thoughtful interview, in which Zeitlin “proves that to make a powerful film today, you don’t need gimmicks, a convoluted strategy, or even connections in the business” is a lesson in what success should mean for each of us. Zeitlin believes that “all you really need is a story so strong that it’s impossible not to make.” Read the interview with this thought in mind—if your life was a movie, what story would you believe in so strongly that you’d have to make it come true?

50 Photos From an Airplane Window

It takes time to load but this gallery of photos from twistersifter.com is worth the wait. The photos have all been taken from the window of an airplane and are simply the most arresting collection I’ve seen lately. Mt. Rainer, San Francisco, Rio, Mexico City, Greenland, Miami—they are all gorgeous. Two or three don’t show but don’t let that stop you from being amazed by this stunning virtual photography exhibit.

Disappearing Destinations

Gadling.com blogger Reena Ganga offers a review of travel destinations that are focused on preservation efforts or groups that can use your help to spur preservation efforts. My favorite idea from this post is to volunteer at a World Heritage center. “There are volunteer projects across the globe, including diving along the Great Barrier Reef to help threatened coral, conserving the Medina of Fez in Morocco, and restoring archaeological sites in Tanzania.” Many countries don’t have the resources to take care of historic sites. Travel with heart and your next vacation could be anything but ordinary.

Related post: 5 Ways Historic Preservation Scares Us and Why That’s a Good Thing

Iceberg Beware

The new and improved Titanic will sail again, according to AOL’s travel site. A perfect replica of the ship is being built by Australian zillionaire Clive Palmer. If things go according to plan, the Titanic II will cross the Atlantic in 2016. Passengers will wear period costumes to mimic the original Titanic’s 1912 cruise. What won’t be imitated is the original brush with that fatal iceberg. Palmer reportedly told a UK newspaper that due to climate change “There are not so many icebergs in the North Atlantic these days.” Titanic II will, however, have enough lifeboat and life rafts to accommodate all 2,435 passengers and 900 crew members. Cue Celine Dion!

 

A Friday Fiesta of Close Encounters: Maps, Murano, Mississippi and Designing Vietnam

dog with suitcaseAs a fiction and mystery author I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America. But every week there is something new to encounter–who knows where I’ll find myself next as long as every Friday is a fiesta! Subscribe to this blog and come along for the ride.

How to Make a Map of Yourself

Skillshare.com is a website that offers tutorials on a wide range of quirky subjects ( average price for an online class $20.) This upcoming class is a series of video lessons that teach you how to make a variety of maps from photo-based maps to “you are here” graphics. Learn a unique skill and have some fun at the same time! A good mental exercise as well, for anyone who loves travel or simply wants to know where they are in life.

Shards of Murano

I’ve been reading Donna Leon’s mystery series set in Venice and one of the books takes Commisario Guido Brunetti to the island of Murano (won’t give it away but bad things happen) which is known around the world for its glassmaking. But as cheaper Chinese glass floods the souvenir market in Italy, are skilled Murano glassmakers going to lose their livelihood? The answer lies in fighting volume with quality and true artistry. A fascinating read from online magazine The Cultureist.

Believe it or Not in Mississippi

Right on the heels of the movie Lincoln, which focused on the passage of the US 13th Amendment banning slavery, Mississippi has ratified the amendment!  Only 148 years after it became law, Mississippi has corrected a clerical error which prevented the state from officially ratifying the amendment, according to the Politico website. Better late than never. Oh, and the movie was great. Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor for sure

Designing Vietnam

We don’t usually think of Vietnam as a spark for creative design; India, China, and Japan generally get top honors for Asian motifs and inspiration. But the folks at fav website creativeroots.org have gathered together a passel of design ideas related to the small country; iconic photos to the packaging for Mekong Red Dragon rice to the results of a collaboration between Swedish designers and Vietnamese craftsmen. It’s a thought-provoking visual menu of design ideas, rather than war images (although some are there.) Maybe times really are a-changing.

I hope you were intrigued by this week’s close encounters. I’m always looking for new ideas to encounter for my mystery and thriller books. Share yours with a comment!

Friday Fiesta: Love, Murder, African Design and the Final Frontier

dog reading paperAs the author of a mystery series I love to weave unique cultural gems into the plot. Most of the time I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America.

In these Friday Fiesta posts I highlight cultural stories worth celebrating. The unique, the odd, the thought-provoking. Join the movement and share your stories on Twitter with hashtag #FridayFiesta.

A love list by President Harry Truman

He’s better known for “the buck stops here” than for romance but the Smithsonian recently gave us a fascinating list that President Harry Truman wrote capturing his life with Bess, his wife of 53 years. He made a brief notation beside the date of their anniversary each year. Many entries evoke the time period the Trumans were living through. A really interesting way to capture our milestones. Some examples:

  • June 28, 1922 Broke and in a bad way
  • June 28, 1927 Presiding Judge – eating again
  • June 28, 1944 Talk of V.P. Bad business
  • June 28, 1947 Marshall Plan + Greece + Turkey

Murder in the Library

The British Library has a new exhibit featuring the sound and text of British crime fiction writers. Murder in the Library: An A to Z of Crime Fiction is the British Library’s current free exhibition in the Folio Society Gallery in the Entrance Hall. As reported in the Library’s English and Drama Curators’ blog, the exhibit includes recordings including Edgar Wallace reading his short story ‘The Man in the Ditch’, from a 1928 commercial disc; Arthur Conan Doyle speaking in 1930 about his most famous literary creation, Sherlock Holmes; Agatha Christie in 1955 explaining how she began her career; Raymond Chandler in conversation with Ian Fleming in 1958; and an extract from a 1943 radio version of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

Maybe I find this fascinating because I write a mystery series, love museums, and appreciate the innovation that goes into a non-standard exhibit, but the British Library has created an intriguing display, especially if visited on a dark and stormy night . . .

House of Kenya

Art and design is taking off in Kenya, according to the ever-fresh thecultureist.com online magazine.  Both London and Los Angeles will host an Africa Fashion Week this year and Berlin’s Fashion Week will include an Africa Fashion Day. A few of the names that are behind this recognition by the tough-nut-to-crack fashion world are Kenyan designer Anna Trzebinski who will open her first U.S. boutique in New York in late 2013 or early 2014, Nigerian-born Adèle Dejak whose workshop in Nairobi focuses on using sustainable materials for her accessories line, and Penny Winter who sells fashion accessories in Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, as well in Browns in London. Watch out Dior and Chanel—Kenya’s cultural fashions are creative, colorful, and wearable.

The Final Frontier

The cleverness of some folks! Reddit.com “redditor” boredboarder8 superimposed a map of the continental United States on a comparatively-sized image of the moon. The result? The US covers nearly half of the moon. As Robert Gonzalez, writing for website io9.com, said: “A rough estimate, but it’s certainly good enough for government work when it comes to illustrating the Moon’s relative dinkiness. (Or America’s hulking hugeness, depending on how patriotic you’re feeling.)” Take an eye-opening look at America’s final frontier here.

Friday Fiesta: Saving the Food Chain, A Language, Literary Thought and Your Self-Esteem

dog with sifesaver

As the author of a mystery series I love to weave unique cultural gems into the plot. Most of the time I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America.

In these Friday Fiesta posts I highlight cultural stories worth celebrating. The unique, the odd, the thought-provoking. Join the movement and share your stories on Twitter with hashtag #FridayFiesta.

The Fish at the Bottom of Your Food Chain

The Peruvian anchovy, known as anchoveta, lives at the bottom of a global food chain you probably have never thought about. According to AP, the little silver fish “thrives in the cold, plankton-saturated Humboldt Current along the coast of Peru and Chile and accounts for about a third of the global fishmeal industry used to fatten farmed seafood and livestock, from salmon in Norway to pigs in China.” But due to overfishing, the anchoveta population is about half what it was 10 years ago. That’s a serious concern for people who know what a food chain is and Peru is taking action by setting quotas, levying fines for illegal harvesting, and making the fish more accessible to its own population to combat childhood malnutrition. Paul Phumpiu, Peru’s vice minister of fisheries, framed the situation: “It’s a paradox, having a resource so rich that it feeds other parts of the planet but barely reaches Peruvians.” A little fish with a big job, it seems.

Saving the Language of Jesus

Writer Ariel Sabar recently followed scholar Geoffrey Khan of the University of Cambridge through Chicago in his quest to find speakers of pure Aramaic, the 3,000-year-old language of Jesus. Aramaic, the language in which Jesus uttered his last words, is down to its last generation or two of speakers. Khan looks for “elderly folk who had lived the better part of their lives in mountain enclaves in Iraq, Syria, Iran or Turkey” and records those whose language skills have not been diluted by slang or dialects. His work is “an act of cultural preservation and an investigation into how ancient languages shift and splinter over time.” This terrific article, published in The Smithsonian, is beautifully researched and written.  I loved this line: “the sounds of a language in twilight.

Be Proud, Get a Badge

Lifescouts.org is an online social community of people who share life experiences and get real badges for those experiences. You can join the social community and store the story about how you earned a certain badge like Sky Diving, Haunted House, Swimming With Dolphins, etc. More are added every month. Each Lifescouts badge costs 3.00 BPS and comes as a round enamel pin. I love Lifescouts for two reasons: 1. Find other folks who have similar experiences and 2. My daughter realized that she’s accomplished more than she sometimes gives herself credit for. A couple of little pins is a terrific reminder of our Small Victories. And some big ones, too.

A Literary Festival in Myanmar. Really

Myanmar recently held its first literary festival, the Irrawaddy Literary Festival. As reported by Publishing Perspectives, it drew “thousands of attendees attracted by the opportunity to hear speakers ranging from Vikram Seth, Timothy Garton Ash, William Dalyrmple, to the festival’s patron, Nobel Peace Prize winner and worldwide icon for democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi.” It was organized by the wife of the British ambassador to Myanmar, Jane Heyn who saw opportunity in the country’s recent loosening of censorship. Two years ago, such an event—attended by previously jailed writers and others who once had to hand out their works in secret–would not have been possible. While creatives still must tread carefully in Myanmar, the literary festival was “a platform to exchange ideas,” according to Heyn. That can only be a good sign.

 

Friday Fiesta: An Artist, An Astronaut and the Unexpected in Nepal and on Kilimanjaro

globe on a plateAs the author of a mystery series I love to weave unique cultural gems into the plot. Most of the time I draw on my own world travels and experiences living in Mexico and Central America.

In these Friday Fiesta posts I highlight cultural stories worth celebrating. The unique, the odd, the thought-provoking. Join the movement and share your own good news stories on Twitter with hashtag #FridayFiesta.

Meet Mr. Fabulous

In a guest post for abduzeedo.com, the avant-garde art site, Brazilian artist Marco Torres interviews a fellow artist known as Mr. Fabulous. The Q&A about his evolution as an artist and sources of inspiration is quirky and fun, as well as surprisingly thoughtful. Mr. Fabulous makes art with simple markers and pencils. The rest of the abduzeedo site is equally fun; it’s a prescription to end the winter blahs and boost creative inspiration.

Art from an astronaut

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield photographed Earth from the International Space Station and posted them on Twitter. UK’s The Telegraph pulled a selection of Hadfield’s photos of Earth to create a gallery of Hadfield’s best on the publication’s website. Breathtaking and crisp, these photos of Earth truly give us a new perspective on this place we call home as well as Hadfield’s own experience as an astronaut.

Zipping in Nepal

Backpacker Becki is a self-described “a British solo female traveler and adventure seeker” and her website lives up to the description. She is currently on a two year tour of parts unknown and documents the highlights such as her zipline adventure in Nepal. She writes that the zipline near Pokhara is the world’s longest, fastest and steepest. It is over 1.8km long, with a 600 metre vertical drop that gets riders going at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. Unlike most other ziplines the rider sits in a harness foor the ride which swings over the Seti River. The pictures are great and while Becki admitted to being nervous, she clearly adored the adventure! While I envy Becki the experience, I’m glad it was on her bucket list, not mine!

The Kilimanjaro Restaurant Experience

It you have a bit of time mid-month, join a tour to Tanzania that includes an expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro, a stop at a gourmet restaurant on the way down the iconic peak, and two days volunteering at a local school. According to website weblogtheworld.com, “Departing February 18, 2013, from Washington, D.C., this one-of-a-kind trek up Africa’s highest mountain boasts an amenity that no other tour provider offers: a gourmet feast prepared by African Chef Pierre Thiam, who will open a temporary restaurant at a base camp at 12,500 feet above sea level exclusively to celebrate the fund-raising climb. After summiting Mount Kilimanjaro via the scenic Machame route, climbers will descend to the base camp restaurant to dine on Chef Thiam’s African regional cuisine.” The core purpose of the expedition is to benefit St. Timothy’s School, a school and children’s home, and the climb and gourmet experience are great ways to generate interest. So if Kilimanjaro is on your bucket list, here’s the best way to do it!

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