Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Are bookstores facing a “survival of the fittest” era? If so, what can make a bookstore “fit?”

In the case study letter below, the key is creativity and willing to do something wholly different.

Last week I wrapped up my Bookstores of the Future project, in which I asked 800+ people to give me their thoughts on how bookstores could survive and prosper in the era of ebooks and ecommerce. Dick McLeester had responded to me as a store owner but I did not use his comment because I could not tell if his was an online or bricks-and-mortar store and the series was about the latter.

Bookseller as retail innovator

When I let him know, Dick responded with this insightful letter, which he agreed to let me post here. For anyone thinking of going into the book business, Dick’s views are a must-read. Dick doesn’t yet have a blog to share his experiences, but you can check out his website: www.changingworld.com to see how he combines online and pop-up sales, as well as the line of products he sells to augment book sales.

Carmen,

Thanks for writing. Your articles were interesting.

I realize that people call them “brick & mortar” stores to distinguish them from online booksellers, but I think there is a danger in that term, which is to define the Successful Bookseller of the Future just too narrowly.

In 1976, I launched a bookstore called Food For Thought Books with a total investment of $25.00. I was the founder and co-manager there for 10 years, before leaving to start my current business. (You can check, Food For Thought Books is in Amherst, Massachusetts, now a proud brick & mortar bookstore. But struggling to find their way to a  successful future. And probably because they are struggling to find their way, they would probably not be able to speak with much clarity to your questions.)

I was able to start Food For Thought with little capital because of a strong vision of the possibilities and because we were able to bring  books to people who were hungry for them. For the first two years we paid no rent or salary, and grew very fast. We became experts at  setting up instant bookstores at event, conferences, festivals and meetings. We did this in a way that very few booksellers today know how to do, because they start with a retail shop where they need to pay rent and get people to come there.

When I left Food For Thought to start VisionWorks, it was because I had a larger vision of what was needed for booksellers to be successful into the future. I realized that today, ideas and information are carried not just in books, but often on other vehicles, such as postcards, bumperstickers, calendars, magnets or buttons. In most bookstores these are seen as valuable sidelines or gift items, but someone who runs a shop usually cannot devote much energy to having a really good selection because it is such alot of  work to order from all these little companies, including overseas suppliers. So VisionWorks is set up as a wholesale distributor, making it easy for any retailer (bookseller or otherwise) to get a great selection from hundreds of suppliers by placing one order. For us, we sell way more cards, stickers and calendars than we do books.  But books are still really important to us, and we sell large quantities of some books.

How? We sell at select Conferences, where we bring the books to people who are looking for certain ideas & information. 4 events per  year. We get huge book sales in a short time. We sell more books retail at those events than we do in our brick & mortar store. More than we sell wholesale. More than we sell online. At these events,  it is primarily books that sell, and the cards, stickers and calendars are an important, high-margin sideline. But it is really the Cards, Stickers & Calendars that we sell wholesale to retailers across the country that keeps us in business, that makes it all work. And now we also publish postcards, so we have a hand in making sure our selection is really educational, informative and connected to the ideas in books we offer.

My point is that anyone who wants to have a successful bookstore into the future, needs to be flexible and creative. They need to look at whatever will work for them, and then work that angle, even if it looks very different than how a traditional bookstore has looked. If this means taking the books to the events where hungry minds gather, they need to get really good at that. If they think that cards and stickers are something that can really work for them, they need to really work it, to be the best. And if that means those things become  75% off their sales and books only 20%, then go with that. What used  to be thought of as a sideline, may become the main thing. But we  need to pay attention to that.

I think there will always be an important role for good booksellers, but right now they need to be creative, flexible and willing to take risks, to think differently. That’s my perspective. One day soon, I  think I need to get working on a blog and put some of this out that way. I am especially curious to see how others will respond, esp.  those who are running some of the more traditional bookshops, indie shops, brick & mortar.

Thanks for starting the conversations. Best, Dick “I am a bookseller, really” McLeester 

VisionWorks website:  www.changingworld.com

Thank you, Dick, for agreeing to share your views and showing us that book retailers who think outside the cover will succeed!

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

Bookstores of the Future: 5 Lessons About Survival of the Fittest

Bookstores of the Future: 5 Lessons About Survival of the Fittest

Will bookstores survive? Must they innovate in order to stay relevant and solvent in the era of ebooks and ecommerce?

Simply out of curiosity, I began posing this question to authors, book bloggers, publishers, and store owners.

This led to a series of articles on this blog, including 25 Influential Authors Weigh In, 12 Influential Bloggers Debate, and 13 Divergent Views from Publishing Insiders. The series included some memorable virtual encounters such as with veteran thriller writer Dale Brown, blogger and author extraordinaire C. M. Mayo, Lebanon-based publisher Carole Corm, and #LitChat host Carolyn Burns Bass.

The result is some personal conclusions, which likely run counter to traditional publishing’s preferences. I make no excuses; these conclusions are based only on my experience asking questions. I’m a mystery author and claim no expertise or management experience in the publishing field. Which might be a good thing. But I digress.

After 7 months and over 800 emails, here are my conclusions.

 

1. Bookstore owners can no longer stay in business simply because they love books

Surprisingly, bookstore owners were the least responsive out of all the groups I queried,  with whopping a 5% response rate. This compares to authors (60%) and book bloggers (72%). Those who did respond, however, had something smart to say:

Emily Stavrou, Schuler Books & Music,  Michigan, www.SchulerBooks.com Schuler Books & Music, Michigan-based, large-format, independent bookstore (established in 1982), has credited its continued success with the ability to evolve quickly as the market changes.  Over the years, Schuler has diversified the bookstores’ inventory to include unique gift merchandise, games and puzzles, home accessories, and more.  Schuler Books has developed a strong Used Books & Media section in each of the stores that continues to be successful.   Over the years, Schuler has added and expanded each location to include a full-service gourmet cafe, and has integrated Chapbook Press,  a publishing arm of the company,  with their recent purchase of the innovative Espresso Book Machine for print-on-demand book publishing. These are just a few ways Schuler Books has continued to remain a vibrant part of an ever-changing market. 

Not to be overlooked, technology has become an ally in innovation for Schuler Books. Utilizing social media to connect and collaborate with community groups & non-profit organizations locally has proven to be a wonderful way to bring business to the bookstore.  Schuler offers a conference room space for hosting monthly meetings, and brings in authors for events pertaining to the organization’s focus.  They also offer fundraising opportunities through many community service efforts.  These partnerships have had a positive effect on business in many ways.  The cafes see additional business through catering revenue; marketing efforts get a broad audience through the benefiting organization’s supporters, and the bookstore is able connect with their community in a meaningful way. 

Karin van Eck, The American Book Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands, http://www.abc.nl/index.php

ABC offers local authors a chance to print and publish and sell their book at ABC. The EBM, or like ABC’s owner Lynn Kaplanian Buller likes to call it: fab lab for books, is situated in both stores. ABC also offers local ( and self published) authors a chance to present their book at Meet My Book events or pitch their book (idea) to a professional publisher once a month. 

The Espresso Book Machine® (EBM), which Time Magazine named an “Invention of the Year,” provides a revolutionary direct-to-consumer distribution model for books. Put simply, the EBM is an automated book-making machine. The operator selects a title to print, and within a few minutes a book emerges: bound and trimmed with a full-color cover.

Pete Mulvihill, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA http://www.greenapplebooks.com/CBD-at-green-apple-books

Green Apple spearheaded the effort to create California Bookstore Day–a statewide celebration of books, authors, and indy bookstores. We took the lead, from convincing the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association to back the idea to getting publishers and authors on board, from launching an IndieGoGo campaign to get it off the ground to finding the perfect candidate to produce the event. Now, thirteen unique books and art pieces will be featured and sold at 93 indy bookstores in CA on one day only–May 3, 2014.

Ed Gillis, Ed’s Books & More, Sydney, Nova Scotia, https://www.facebook.com/edsbooksandmore

To stay competitive, I added more than books to the store. To succeed and remain relevant, I knew that I needed more than readers to enter the store; I needed to reach people who had other interests.

Besides a huge stock of books, we also carry DVDs, CDs, albums, jewelry, and collectables. Due to the variety, we have more opportunity to reach new customers; and once in the door, they discover a world of books.

 

2. The debate over print vs ebook is both emotional and distracting

Asking questions about how bookstores might look in the future, instead of leading to discussions about shared retail space, community partnerships, or clever promotions, in almost every case led to a debate about print vs ebooks. Although publishing insider Doris Heilmann of  SavvyBookWriters.com/blog and author Jane Rosenthal had some actionable ideas, many respondents were less ready to talk about practical solutions than were willing to discuss the impact of ebooks. This view was brought home to me again during a recent #LitChat session on Twitter sponsored by Carolyn Burns Bass’s Litchat.com website. While the moderator’s questions were designed to spark a debate on bookstore innovation, most of the chat was another print vs ebook discussion, with firm views on both sides.

 

3. The elephant in the room is quite comfortable, thank you

Bookstores are being squeezed on two sides, in my view. The first is from the chokehold on distribution by the traditional publishing industry. Major publishers control the distribution funnel with a limited number of select books, store displays, and may even dictate book placement.

The second squeeze is from the growing number of independent author or small press titles that aren’t in the distribution funnel, yet are increasingly popular with readers who find them through book blogs, Amazon, and other online outlets. Authors and small presses bemoan the fact that they cannot get their print books into bookstores, with a few exceptions for local connections. There is no systematic small press or indie author distribution network to stores. Plus, there is no return policy as with traditionally published books, given that most small publishers and independent authors operate on a just-in-time inventory basis.

Author Bob Mayer, who also has his own Cool Gus publishing imprint, commented that “The bottom line is that authors will totally support bookstores when that support is extended the other way.”

The traditional publishers’ return policy is often mentioned as the stopper. After selling the store a chunky quota of books, publishers accept returns of the unsold. As long as enough large stores survive for this model to continue to work, there is little incentive for publishers to shift or take on distribution of books they don’t publish.

Can this dynamic last much longer? Either bookstores will be able to innovate enough to stay ahead of the dual squeeze, or enough will fail to significantly erode the traditional distribution model. But here’s the catch–publishers can make up the difference in print returns with ebooks, leaving bookstores that rely on print in the cold.

 

4. The power of the backlist

I was most surprised to receive comments from established–no, let’s be frank, they are famous– authors acknowledging the power of ebooks. Dale Brown and Bernard Cornwell were among them, with Brown saying “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.” 

Brown, Cornwell, and Mayer are all prolific authors with extensive backlists. They typify the authors who have the most to gain from ebooks, which are always for sale and never out of print. In contrast, bookstores generally don’t have the space to carry all the print titles by very prolific authors. The more titles an author has, it would seem, the less incentive to align with the traditional publishing distribution model.

 

5. The reality of books as part of the highly competitive entertainment industry

Most people associated with books and publishing regard books as something separate from other entertainment options such as music, television, or (gasp) online gaming. But for much of the book world, especially for fiction, that isn’t true. Many entertainment options are available to take up the consumer’s time and books are one of those choices. My own teenagers have shown me that.

Countering the entertainment option, many respondents said the bookstores of the future should be quiet places to browse, with a coffee bar. Basically, a library with a Starbucks attached. That model won’t pay the bills.

What will pay the bills, however, is using bookstore space to create a broader retail experience. Whether it is linking books with food and drink, or a service or an activity like hotel accommodations, an approach that generates more income streams will let bookstores survive. Are there still music stores? Yes, but they sell more than just CD’s or LPs or are part of a larger retail concept. Ernest Tubbs’ in Nashville might be the exception, but heck, they don’t call it Music City for nothing.

I wrote about a few innovating bookstore examples early in the series. Stores in Europe, for example, with the grand new Foyle’s in London, are taking the broad view and building around it.

 

Parting words

Overall, this series was harder than I thought it would be. It was hard to justify the resolute business-as-usual attitude of traditional publishers–and reading sneery literary agent Donald Maass’s recent comments about “freight class” authors–didn’t help. Neither did the near-deafening silence from store owners, whose lack of participation was underscored by some truly terrible store websites.

Yet I’m optimistic. Many print books don’t translate well to current ebook technology and are best served up in print. There is a dedicated cadre of print devotees who will spend the extra dollar for a print book and drive the extra distance to find the store. Stores that find the sweet spot between service, community, and creating a retail experience will survive and thrive.

I’ve been asked what would my perfect bookstore look like. I’d call it The Book Bar. The walls would be lined with books to browse, specialty drinks would be named after memorable titles and authors (the Detective Emilia Cruz Hot Pepper Mojito, for example), and it would be an awesome venue for author chats, book clubs, speed dating, and singles nights. Not all at once, of course.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

Publishing Insiders Dispute the Future of Bookstores

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Can publishing insiders predict the future of bookstores? What will stores look like in 10 years as they face competition from ebooks and ecommerce?

Over the past 6 months I’ve asked more than 800 people this question, including fellow authors, as well as book bloggers, marketers, and store owners. I’ve also followed the online debate fostered by many who have a large stake in the issue, notably those in the traditional publishing industry. 

The result of my curiosity has been a series of articles. The first article, with 25 author comments, including those from thriller author Dale Brown and Guy Kawasaki, author of ENCHANTMENT, was a real eye-opener and my most widely shared blog post (I’ve stopped counting).  Book bloggers presented more enlightening views, while the series has also explored book retailing innovation and potential partnerships.

This article, with widely divergent views from publishing insiders, raises the most questions out of all of the articles in the series so far. Many bash Amazon.com, without acknowledging that traditional publishing may be a “declining value proposition,” as economist Adam Gomolin ably put it.  Others believe that the indie bookstore, with a couple of baristas and roots in the community, offers the best hope for continued bricks-and-mortar stores even while acknowledging that owners must become more savvy retailers. The age of owning a successful bookstore just because you love books is over.

Questions I thought would be hot topics for the publishing industry really weren’t in evidence: 1. How to change book distribution to improve cost structures for bookstores, and 2. How to get the growing number of independently published titles into physical bookstores?  

Maybe the lack of big discussion is answer enough.

Note: comments listed in alphabetical order by commentator last name

Carolyn Burns Bass

founder and moderator of LitChat, a website devoted to reading and writing and #litchat Twitter discussions, email to author, 3 December 2013

www.carolynburnsbass.com and http://litchat.com

The writing is on the wall and the wall is electronic. As much as we love the smell of books, the turning of pages and beautifully designed typography, ebooks are the literary delivery devices of the future. Despite the convenience of ebooks, there remains, and will for a good many years, a devoted clientele for collector’s edition books and first editions. Publishers understand this and are even now responding with special designs such as wrap around covers for trade paperbacks, more deckle-edges and stunning interior designs. The bookstore of the future will feature these books, as well as kiosks such as the Expresso Book Machine for printing books on the spot. The bookstore of the future will have an agreement with publishers to get discount codes on ebooks their customers buy while logged into a bookstore’s wi-fi or from a local bookstore’s website. Successful bookstores of the future will cater to their patrons as a neighborhood deli serves its customers. They may not have every variety of salami, but they always have what their customers like best.

To survive against online book sales, bookstores can create alliances with other local businesses, such as a coffee/tea, juice or even a wine cart brought in during author visits. Bookstores of the future can be hubs of learning and culture, where people gather to buy books and talk about them. Of course, a bookstore is a logical place to host writing as well as reading groups, mini-TED-type talks, open mic readings by authors/poets, and other public discourse.

If this is not the bookstore of the future, then it’s my dream bookstore.

Carole Corm

publisher, Darya Press, 28 Jan 2014, email to author, www.daryapress.com

I don’t think I am the only person who misses their local bookshop. For the future, I am rather optimistic. I think bookshops could experience a renaissance.

Many people have remarked that the publishing industry is changing: beautiful, niche books continue to be published while the rest is delivered in the e-book format. In fact, there is already a market trend for well made books — whether cheap or high end. These volumes need a fitting space to be looked at – and bought.  In a way, the whole Internet adventure is going to help bookshop owners up their game, offering only the best books, in an improved setting and with the kind of service and perks the Internet cannot compete with.

Doris Heilmann

publisher and blogger, email to author 22 Jan 2014, http://SavvyBookWriters.com/blog, http://www.111Publishing.com

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive? Just a couple of ideas that pop in mind : )

1. e-Book Order Feature
Since years I was wondering why bookstores did not offer their customers devices where they could order the e-book version if they liked what they found in print in the store. Or at least “bundle” print books with an e-book version. Amazon now tries to partner with bookstores (which might meet some resistance…) to offer exactly what I had envisioned.

2. Carrying Author-Published Books
Trade-published books do not automatically mean quality. There are so many wonderful books from independent authors out there – and it would be a smart move to offer them as well. Readers don’t care who publishes a book, they just want a good read.

3. Order Directly from Author-Publishers
This way, bookstores could circum-navigate the wholesalers and increase their profit quite a bit! As these connections are mostly with local authors, the bookstores could play the “local” aspect into their promotions to the communities around. Most people like to “know” the author who’s books they buy.

4. Offer Book-Layout, Cover-Image and Editing
Why not band together with professionals and offer authors these services to make sure the books’ content and layout gets a great start and is prepared for the Espresso Book Machine. Many authors would be happy to get technical help in the book production and publishing process.

5. Set up an Espresso Book Machine
Many authors (professional and hobbyists) struggle to create very small numbers of print books, e.g. for book signings, Goodreads Giveaways or as gifts. Bookstores would be the ideal place to offer this inventive book printing device. Motto: “Get your book printed while having your Java”, which brings me to the next suggestion:

6. COFFEE! Most chain stores, such as B&N or Chapters have a Starbucks in a designated area, but very few bookstores offer this pleasure. Independent bookstores need to give customers more reasons to come in!

7. More Space and PR for Author Readings
Supporting events such as readings and book signings should be a priority of bookstores – and organizing these professionally, including PR, should be a no-brainer. After all it is a promotion for the store as well.

8. Providing Space for Author Meetings
Charging a small fee (as libraries do) and renting meeting space for authors or even organize a writers conference could be profitable and at the same time a good PR for bookstores if they have the space.

Hugh Howey

author and self-publishing advocate,“Is Amazon Saving Indie Bookstores?” 18 April 2014, http://hughhowey.com

I posited this during my keynote speech at the inaugural PubSmart conference here in Charleston, SC. And nobody threw anything at me. A few people came up afterward and wondered if there might be some merit to the idea. My thinking is this: The true enemy of independent bookstores has been the large chains like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Waldenbooks, not online shoppingThere was even a movie about this. Since the rise of Amazon, we’ve seen some of these chains shutter and many of the B&N stores close. Meanwhile, independent bookstores are experiencing near double-digit growth for three years running.

Is it possible that Amazon more directly competes with the large chains, and the independent stores are rising to reclaim their role in reading communities? I think so. Shoppers looking for discounts, or who know exactly what they need ahead of time, are using mouse clicks rather than driving to the big chain.

It’s also possible that the “shop local” movement, which is partly a response to the rise of discounters like Amazon, vastly benefits independent bookshops more than large chains. I know this works for me. I pay full retail for hardbacks at a mom-and-pop place but balk at 20% discounts from chains. Are there more shoppers like me?

Major publishers lambast Amazon, because they think the large chains are their main hope for the survival of brick and mortar bookshops. Independent bookstores (like the one I used to work in) go right along with the stone-throwing, assuming what’s bad for B&N and Borders must be bad for them as well. And yeah, I saw people scanning UPC codes and taking pics of books to buy online later. I also saw our sales numbers improve every year, partly because of our reorganization of the shop and our focus on customer service, but more because of the shuttering of WaldenBooks.

Amazon is knocking out the big predators. The indie bookshops are filling up some of that space.

Andrew Leonard

staff writer, “The independent bookstore lives! Why Amazon’s conquest will never be complete,” 4 Apr 2014, salon.com 

Stop carving that gravestone. Brick-and-mortar bookstores aren’t dead, yet. On the contrary, independently owned bookstores are growing in number. According to the American Booksellers Association, since hitting a nadir in 2009, the number of indie bookstores in the U.S. has grown 19.3 percent, from 1,651 to 1,971. The current total is less than half the 1990s peak of around 4,000.  But it still serves as a rebuke to the conventional wisdom that equates Amazon’s relentless rise with the inevitable death of the physical bookstore.

What explains this renaissance? The collapse of Borders in 2011 is one big piece of the puzzle. (Removing a dominant carnivore from the savannah gives all the other animals a little more breathing room.) The end of the recession also contributed to a more nurturing economic environment.

But there’s more to the story. There is increasing evidence that the same digital transformation that has so dramatically reshaped the publishing industry, and driven millions of consumers online, also paradoxically rewards locally rooted authenticity. Our digital tools are steering us toward brick-and-mortar stores that promise a more satisfactory consumer experience than either chain stores or online emporiums can provide.

In a world increasingly influenced by our social media interactions, it’s turning out there may well be enough room for the little guy to survive — and perhaps even thrive.

 Michael Kozlowski

founder, GoodEReader.com, “The Future of the Traditional Bookstore in a Digital World,” 9 Sept 2013, goodereader.com

. . . Book discovery is central to bookstores and they invest significant time and money into aesthetics. Barnes and Noble, Indigo and WH Smith all have it down to a science on the art of product display and maximizing space to visually draw the eye. Your average best seller shelf is filled with vibrant colors and display stands hype up other notable authors or themes.

How will the modern bookstore change when by 2015 the amount of digital books sold will reach 50%? We have seen the collapse of Borders in the US, Whitcoulls in New Zealand and RedGroup in Australia. Thousands of small bookstores all over the world have also closed due to readers shifting to digital. How will bookstores transition from exclusively selling physical books to actively promoting eBooks?

The one worry many bookstores face is being a showroom for 3rd party eBook companies. This is evident in the relationship with bookstores that belong to the American Booksellers Association and sell books from Kobo. The indie bookstore makes very little commissions on each eBook and relies on selling physical books to stay in business. Barnes and Noble is the only one in the world with quite a large ecosystem of content and makes hefty digital returns.

Indigo, Chapters, WH Smith, Foyles and many other bookstores all sell tablets and e-readers in their stores. Over the course of the last few years, reading devices have been a boon to these stores and they are seeing modest returns. Indigo recently has been launching a series of Tech Zones, which significantly increases the size of their product display area. They now sell iPad, iPad Mini and an assorted array of new e-readers and tablets. When customers buy these devices, where do they go to buy books?

The bookstore of the future must develop their own eBook infrastructure in order to preserve their own identity and maximize profits. It is critically important that major chains develop their own digital bookstore and sell eBooks directly to their shoppers. It is simply not sustainable to encourage all of your patrons to buy the digital editions from Amazon or Apple There is always more money to be made by phasing out the middleman and reaching your audience directly . . .

In the end, bookstores need to develop their own bookstore and develop a series of apps for readers to use. These need to be loaded on any tablet or e-reader that their store carries. If the hardware vendor does not want to play ball, you ditch them. Bookstores sustain themselves from selling books, magazines and hardware. They need to unshackle themselves from a strict reliance on a 3rd party and bite the bullet and develop their own digital storefront.

Cat Lavoie

author and #ChickLitChat Twitter moderator, email to author, 22 Feb 2014, http://www.catlavoie.com/

Even though I’ve switched from reading paperbacks to (almost) exclusively reading ebooks, there’s nothing that compares to the joy of browsing in a bookstore. I think bookstores need to collaborate with indie authors and publishers in order to highlight local talent. Book signings and book club meetings could also be a good way to create buzz and introduce new authors to bookstore patrons. And readers who prefer their novels in digital form could download their copy directly from the store. In the end, I think that embracing the new technology and finding a way to bring authors and readers together is how bookstores will stay relevent for, hopefully, many years to come.

Judith Rosen

“The Check Is in the Mail: Patterson Sends Over $267,000 to Booksellers,” publishersweekly.com, 19 Feb 2014

Last September 2 in an interview in the Wall Street Journal followed by an appearance two weeks later onCBS This Morning, James Patterson announced his intention to give away $1 million to independent bookstores over the course of the next 12 months . . .

A little over five months later, Patterson has made good on his promise and mailed out the first installment of the funding this week, totaling more than $267,000, to 54 bookstores across the country plus the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association in support of California Bookstore Day . . .

In a phone conversation with PW earlier this week, Patterson stressed that this is only the first round . . . A doer by nature, Patterson describes himself as “the anti-Congress. We just do stuff.” For him, that “stuff” concerns not just the future of bookstores, libraries, and publishers, but of the next generation of readers. “The future of books in America is at risk,” he said. “Bookstore traffic is down. Kids aren’t reading as many books. I want to really shine a light and draw attention to the fact that this is a tricky time. The government will protect the automobile industry and the banking industry, but not books.”

Mike Shatzkin

founder of The Shatzkin Files, “The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing,” idealog.com, 23 Jan 2014

It has been an unspoken article of faith that bookstores would not go the way of stores selling recorded music or renting and selling video, both of which are segments that have just about entirely disappeared. The physical book has uses and virtues that a CD, a vinyl record, a DVD, or a videotape don’t, not the least of which is that a physical book is its own “player”. But it also provides a qualitatively different reading experience, whereas the other “physical” formats don’t change the consumption mode at all. Of course, that only helps bookstores if the sales stay offline. People ordering books online are overwhelmingly likely to order them from Amazon. In other words, it is dangerous to use the book’s ability to endure as a proxy for the bookstores’ ability to sustain themselves. The two are not inextricably connected.

But the fate of almost all trade publishers is inextricably connected to the fate of bookstores. There are only two exceptions. Penguin Random House is one, because they are large enough to create bookstores on their own with just their books. The other is publishers who are vertical with audiences that open up the possibility of retail outlets other than bookstores. Children’s books and crafts books are obvious possibilities for that; there aren’t a ton of others.

The feeling I had at Digital Book World is that most people in the trade have either dismissed or are wilfully ignoring the possibility that there could be such serious further erosion of the trade over the next few years that it would threaten the core practices of the industry. With more than half the sales of many kinds of books — fiction in the trade area, of course, but also lots of specialized and professional and academic topics — already online, many seem to feel whatever “adjustment” is necessary has already been made . . .

All that is possible, and I have no data to refute the notion that we’ve reached some sort new era of bookstore stability, just a stubborn feeling in my gut that over the next few years it will turn out not to be true.

Oren Teicher

CEO of the American Booksellers Association, “A Year-End Letter From ABA CEO Oren Teicher” 12 Dec 2013, bookweb.org

. . . Nationally, the network of independent bookstores has seen and is continuing to see real, sustained growth. This vitality is the result of your hard work, innovation, and a commitment to selecting and showcasing titles that we passionately believe in and that we know will find readers in our communities.

A few years ago, I characterized this revitalization in conversations with our colleagues in the publishing community and in talks as a renaissance in indie bookselling. Today, that renaissance has become resurgence. When Publishers Weekly recently announced that it had selected me and the ABA Board as its person of the year, it was a wonderful acknowledgement of the collective achievement of all independent bookstores. As PW put it, “independent bookstores are once again seen as critical to the success of the book industry.”

. . . Believe me, I know you can’t pay your bills with press clips and that there will be many, many hectic hours before you make that last sale on December 24, but I hope that you can take a moment to appreciate that the public narrative about our industry has changed in a very critical way, as more consumers recognize the importance, vitality, and health of indie bookstores.

Kate Tilton

blogger and author assistant, 12 Feb 2014, via author website form, http://katetilton.com/

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive?: Bookstores have to compete in prices. If it is cheaper to buy a book of equal quality but for a fraction of the cost elsewhere bookstores are going to lose. As much as I love a nice bookstore the convenience of online shopping and money saved makes it very tough for bookstores to stay open. Author events are one of the only things I make the trek out to a bookstore but author events can happen in other places too (libraries, coffee shops, churches). In order for bookstores to innovate they need to find a way to win over readers once again.

 Michael Weinstein

“Reports of the Bookstore’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated,” bookbusinessmag.com, 13 May 2013

. . . Part of me wants to suggest that we take the emotional hot button of the “nobility” of the bookstore (particularly the local independent variety) out of the discussion and just talk cold/hard facts. But I don’t think we can. I think there are enough people out there that see (and feel) the value of the experience (as Sturdivant wrote), who want and NEED bookstores to exist, to contribute enough to keep them going.

But I also think that from a business sense, publishers see the value of bookstores. They may sell more books at Amazon, but publishers are smart enough (I hope) to recognize that independent stores can help “make” a book if they like it, that author readings and signings build loyalty . . .

Also, we need to continue to expand the definition of  “bookstore.” Obviously, most bookstores won’t be  “just” bookstores. In fact, books may not be the primary function of the store, but that won’t mean that they’re not bookstores. What each store offers other than books will depend on the owners — how smart are they? How in touch are they with what their local community needs? The physical store allows a community to be built around events and activities, and that is more potent than an online community. Sure, I’m in an online community of Wheaten Terrier owners, but talking online and sharing pictures with someone from Norway is just not the same as sitting in a room with your physical neighbors . . . .

Like everything else in our industry it will require ingenuity, flexibility and the ability to adapt on the go to succeed.

Tom Weldon

UK chief executive of Penguin Random House, as quoted by Jennifer Rankin in The Observer, 5 April 2014

Some commentators say the publishing industry is in enormous trouble today. They are completely wrong, and I don’t understand that view at all . . . Book publishers have managed the digital transition better than any other media or entertainment industry. I don’t understand the cultural cringe around books . . .

It is a sad fact of life that there are fewer physical bookshops than there were. [Traditional media is declining, including books pages. As the book world moves from] “a browse-and-display model to one of online search and recommendation, publishers must adapt to capture readers attention. The challenge isn’t digital: it is how do you tell people about the next great book.

Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

12 Influential Bloggers Debate the Future of Bookstores

What will be the future of bookstores? Many brick-and-mortar bookstores, including the US-based Borders chain, have closed in recent years, unable to compete in the era of ebooks and ecommerce. Yet bookstores are talked about in terms of being an “oasis,” a magical place of discovery, the place where we all want to spend hours sipping coffee and browsing.

But not necessarily buying.

The big question

So how can bookstores innovate in order to stay relevant and solvent?

Over the past few months, I’ve asked this question of authors, book bloggers, store owners, and publishers. The result is a series of articles featuring responses from each group. The first article, with 25 author comments, including those from thriller author Dale Brown and Guy Kawasaki, author of ENCHANTMENT, was a real eye-opener and my most widely shared blog post (I’ve stopped counting). Read it here.

Book bloggers

Book bloggers occupy a unique position in the discussion, in that 20 years ago, there was no such thing as a book blogger. Theirs is a trade that has grown up with ebooks and ecommerce and is increasingly influential. Yet few would say that we no longer need bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Many say, however, that we need different bookstores than the ones we have today. Read on to see how the debate shapes up. Note: comments organized in alphabetical order by blogger last name.

Rebecca Rego Barry, http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/fine_books_blog/

In thinking about your questions, I kept returning to a set of ideas I put forth back in March on our blog. The post was called “Ten Reasons a Pessimist Can be Optimistic About the Future of the Book.” It was based on a talk I gave at a university library earlier in the year. Several of these points remain relevant. For example, craftsmanship — in general and in book publishing specifically — has made a comeback. To me, that bodes well for the future of new books. Yes, some books can and should go straight to digital, but for the ones that don’t, publishers will have to put more thought into art, design, and packaging; making the book an experience separate from a text to be read. Publishers like Siglio and McSweeneys are doing this. So I would predict that the new bookstore of the future will be smaller, but the books will be better — well-designed, even hand-made, illustrated, and/or innovative.

I almost exclusively cover used, rare, and antiquarian books, and there I see two things. One is the need for solid relationships between buyers and sellers. The Internet very nearly killed off the smaller antiquarian shops (some of whom then became Internet-only dealers), and so book fairs and catalogue sales largely fill in that gap. In some cases, booksellers have closed (appointment-only)  shops. All of this makes it more time-consuming for collectors to find the best material–and yet, even with those obstacles, the trade is strong and the base is committed. Quirky shops like the Monkey’s Paw in Toronto, stocking odd & unusual books and ephemera of various prices is a neat concept, and I’d love to see more of that in the future. And Two, the big, get-lost-in-the-stacks shops like the Strand and Powell’s will still be with us in 25 years for the simple reasons that the books are usually cheap and the thrill of discovery provides something akin to a contact high for many readers. (email to author, 8 December 2013)

Richard Bilkey, http://fictionetal.wordpress.com/

. . . The reality is that booksellers cannot wait for anyone else to come to their rescue. Publishers will put their marketing resources where they believe it will have the biggest impact and the long term trend is unmistakably towards online. You can see the attraction for publishers to the efficiencies of online retail, with enhanced metadata feeds that ensure entire lists of books are displayed on virtual shelves around the world without the costs of sales reps and merchandisers or having to ship physical copies into thousands of stores with a 25% return rate.

Bookshops are not only fighting a battle for relevance with customers, they are fighting for relevance with publishers too. Publishers would love to see bookshops remain profitable and regain the ground they’ve lost in recent years to store closure and digital migration but the initiative and ideas are going to have to come from booksellers themselves. And what better place to start looking for ideas than from the online competition themselves?

1: Use Bundled eBooks to fulfill an order immediately even when the physical book is not in stock . . .

2: Bookshop Subscription Services . . .

3: Reward customer reviews and use them everywhere . . .

4: Don’t just give self-published authors a break – create an “Independent Author Platform” . . .

5: Be aggressive about sourcing new customers . . .

Many booksellers I have known are too passive or simply overwhelmed when it comes to marketing and promoting their business, especially beyond their immediate community. The days of letting customers find their own way into your door are long gone however and the traditional seasonal catalogue, ads in local newspapers and an irregular email newsletter simply won’t cut it. To survive bookshops need to be a highly visible, talked about and valued destination. Booksellers need to therefore get out of their own stores and be seen, start the conversations and tell everyone what’s so special about their shop. There are any number of ways you can do this—engage in local communities, start a writer’s festival, run competitions, drive social media campaigns—as long as you are loud and persistent. (Blog post, “Is the post-bookstore world inevitable? 5 ways bookshops can fight back,” 24 January 2013)

Nigel Burwood, jot101.com, anyamountofbooks.com

I feel certain that a bookstore, if it can survive now, has a good future. In fact the mantra now is ‘to survive is to succeed.’

There has been a brutal culling of bookstores since the advent of the web, even the decade before. Whole parts of cities and large towns which had areas of bookstores, ‘Book Alleys,’ Book Co-Operatives etc., are down to one or two shops or none at all.

What is happening now is that bookshops are becoming desirable again — oases in a desert of bland, celebrity-based culture, and philistinism. In a rant from the 1940s John Cowper Powys stated (or overstated!): A bookshop–especially a second-hand bookshop–is an arsenal of explosives, an armoury of revolutions, an opium den of reactions. And just because books are the repository of all the redemptions and damnations, all the sanities and insanities, of the divine anarchy of the soul, they are still, as they have always been, an object of suspicion to every kind of ruling authority.

In a second-hand bookshop are the horns of the altar where all the outlawed thoughts of humanity can take refuge! Here, like desperate bandits, hide all the reckless progeny of our wild, dark, self-lacerating hearts. A bookshop is a powder-magazine, a dynamite-shed, a drug store of poisons, a bar of intoxicants, a den of opiates, an island of sirens.

I see bookstores co-existing with the web and ebooks etc. Our shop stays afloat by walk-in customers but also by listing collectable books on web collectives + we publicise ourself through an SEO savvy website and social media. We have no problem with the web — it is also a haven of scholarship, research and knowledge. Excellent stock is highly available in most towns now and you have to learn what to stock and what to avoid. If you have the right books at the right price people will buy them.

A shop can do things the web can’t — physical browsing, human company, human assistance, no postage, instant gratification! We are in the very early days of the internet — it is like the railways in the mid 19th century — people saw them as ushering in a tasteless, unlettered world but in terms of books, for example, it allowed for their fast and easy dissemination. People get tired of screens and isolation. The real problem is a seismic cultural shift away from books, scholarship and reading. In 50 years time these things will probably undergo a renaissance but it will be a rocky ride and good bookstores will have to be endlessly resourceful — but they always were! (email to author, 2 December 2013)

C. Hope Clark, fundsforwriters.com

Bookstores are going to have to get novel and creative in their brand. The world harps on authors to develop a brand and a platform to be different amongst the fray. Bookstores could do the same. Nothing wrong with them specializing and getting crazy with it. Mysteries, cozies, romance, YA, suspense, scifi, fantasy, horror, literary, etc. Instead of a bookstore trying to be a jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none, why not specialize? The biggest B&N cannot hold a respectable cross-section of the books out there, thus driving people online. Unless the book is from a top five NY publisher, a reader can’t be assured it’ll be in a bookstore. These stores would hold events – not signings, but events. Something worth taking a date to. Music, appearances, shows.

Specializing would also be conducive to partnerships. Just like you can see scaled down versions of Pizza Hut, Subway, Dairy Queen, and Taco Bell in the same venue as other stores, sharing the same space and the same customers, bookstores need to partner with other entities. The obvious ones are theatres, museums, motels, coffee shops, restaurants, even libraries.

For instance, if the local theatre has a small bookstore, it would sell the books that the movies originated from as well as similar stories in the genre. If it’s a big theatre, then it would have a healthy supply of books. Why not capitalize on that spontaneous need to take that movie experience home in the form of the book?

Guess I’m saying that the stand-alone bookstore is a dinosaur. B&N’s days are numbered. But if I can go see a Jack Reacher movie, get excited about the story, then walk out of the theatre and use my ticket stub to get 25% off the price of a Jack Reacher novel, I’m going to do it. That concept can happen in so many other partner venues out there. And of course kiosks should be available to download ebooks, or order books that aren’t on hand. You have to learn how to tap that energy that’s been used for years by speakers selling books at the back of the room. Music’s done it for years as well. Heck, t-shirt vendors do it like crazy. Why not books?

I could go on and on. It’s just that a bookstore can no longer supply all of a reader’s needs. So it has to create a novel effect or develop a strong enough partnership with another vendor, to create an attraction. There has to be more to it than just buying a book, in other words. Because we can do that from any computer at home.

Oh, and it would be nice to see bookstores respect authors. In my travels, the author is too often overlooked by bookstore owners. Authors can make a difference to a bookstore – a fact very often overlooked by bookstores. (via website response form, 22 January 2014)

Diana Dilworth, Editor of http://galleycat.com

Community based book stores will thrive even in a world where Amazon is threatening same day book delivery via drone, but it will take a lot of work. Indie book stores that can cultivate community through well-curated reading lists are able to offer readers much more than any algorithm can. Hosting events such as author readings, book clubs and even art shows and live music will give people another reason to come into the store. They’ll have to sell coffee, food & cocktails to diversify their revenue stream.

While a good physical presence is key, being Internet savvy is also important. Indie book stores have got to get the word out and social media can be very helpful to do this. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, among other channels, can help these bookstores thrive.

I also think that indie bookstores that offer eBooks for sale are smart. People like buying books from their local bookstore, but they also like the convenience of being able to download a new book and read it on their device. Companies like Zola Books offer consumers the option to buy eBooks from their favorite local book seller. I think that book stores that take advantage of these kinds of technologies will be positioned to serve all readers. (email to author, 6 December 2013)

Susan Helene Gottfried,

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive?: Bookstores need to become integral parts of our community. They need to host events — not merely author events — that give people — not merely readers — a reason to come through the door and linger. Repeatedly. They need to bring like-minded people together, and they need to simultaneously expand our horizons and let us connect with new faces and businesses. And they need to do it without charging for the services. Let a book club use your back room for free . . . but then offer a discount if everyone buys the book from you. Host storytime weekly, and find local businesses to sponsor the craft that goes with the story. Be the hub of community action and see what happens. (via website response form, 21 January 2014)

Donna Huber, http://www.girl-who-reads.com

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive?: We are getting more contact with authors than ever before thanks to the digital age and social media. Because of this feeling of getting to know our favorite authors virtually, readers are even more excited to meet them in person. Bookstores can play a huge role in satisfying this need. My local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop, hosts a ton of authors and I really think that is part of their success. Also being active in the community is big. Again, my local bookstore has been a part of a number of community events. They hosted a pre-World Book Night party for givers, offer a number of reading clubs for readers of all ages, and support the local library with events. To be competitive, bookstores need to offer an experience that goes beyond buying the book. (via website response form, 22 January 2014)

C.M. Mayo, http://madammayo.blogspot.com/

It’s a question I’m delighted to contemplate because, from the time I was a small child, bookstores have been a Mecca for me, and, as an author, when it comes to selling my books, an oasis of delightfulness– though sometimes, alas, a fata morgana, now that on-line booksellers such as amazon.com have swallowed up so much of their business. Indeed, as a book buyer, for convenience, selection, and price, I long ago went over to amazon.com and other online booksellers. And as an author I am now seeing more from Kindle sales than from my print books. (In fact, for my latest book, a niche topic, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, I bypassed traditional publishers and bookstores altogether. I had thought it might be nice to place it with a university press. Then I did the math. Ha.)

That said, I am saddened by the way so many brick-and-mortar bookstores have turned themselves into glorified coffee and tchotchkes-made-in-China shops poorly staffed and oftentimes (not always, I hasten to add) by people who seem they might be more knowledgable about, say, pumping gas. As for the sort of hackwork most stock by their cash registers, Joe Queenan described them best: “by Punch for the edification of Judy.” In short, the typical bookstore bums me out– and the coffee isn’t that great, either. I have yet to sit down at a clean table in a Barnes & Noble café. Don’t get me started about the restrooms.

Well, I don’t think brick-and-mortar bookstores are going the way of the dodo, but if they are to survive, they will evolve, and dramatically, to offer a broader array of book-related goods and services. For example, a brick-and-mortar bookstore might offer:

Library services, such as those offered by New York City’s Society Library–not just books for loan, but a research desk, large well-lit tables, and small but comfortable and quiet private offices for writers / independent scholars (especially valuable where public library services are problematic);

  • More curated selections by more knowledgeable staff;
  • Artist books;
  • More–way more–books by local authors;
  • Rare books;
  • Collectible ephemera;
  • A place to bring in rare books and have them appraised (why not every third Thursday of the month?);
  • A place to order up a letterpress book of one’s own (why not bring in the local letterpress guy every second Wednesday of the month?);
  • A place to learn about book design and book cover design;
  • A place to take a marbled paper workshop or how to make pop-up books;
  • A place to take a weekend seminar on Tolstoy/learn French/history of Rome/Mesoamerica (books included);
  • Meeting room for writers groups / book clubs / movies / yoga;
  • A machine to print out one’s book (a few do have the machinery for this already, such as Politics & Prose with the Espresso Book Machine http://www.politics-prose.com/opus); and so on and so forth.

They will also dramatically improve their on-line shops to compete with the likes of amazon.com— not so much in terms of selection, but ease of use and prompt customer service. A few already have. Recently, I have been impressed by the rare books dealers using www.bibliopolis.com.

Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurial. And I’ll bet bucks to cabbages that there will be people writing and reading ’til Kingdom Come. So whatever “bookstores” morph into, it’s going to be interesting.

Time capsule: Here’s my 2009 blog about bookstores for Red Room. (email to author, 25 January 2014)

Vinny O’Hare, http://awesomegang.com

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive?: My first reaction was to say that bookstores needed to add a cafe or something, but the last bookstore I was in was a Borders at Madison Square that had a cafe and it was the worst coffee ever. I remember thinking at the time that wasn’t what was going to keep a bookstore open.

I think if we had the answer there would be less bookstores closing every day. If I was to open a bookstore tomorrow I would make sure it had a good community feel and make myself known as giving back. The bookstore would also have to have something else to draw people in. Maybe free tutoring for kids. Maybe an area for live readings or music? It would also sell gift cards to Amazon and iTunes. (via website response form, 22 January 2014)

Joey Pinkney, http://joeypinkney.com

People used to buy from entities that they were comfortable with. As an extension of that, people used to buy from people. Nowadays, it’s standard practice for a “customer” to walk into a bookstore, find a book he/she wants to purchase and pull out their smartphone to purchase it online.

Bookstores stay in business by selling books, not displaying books. And they sell books by servicing the community. One surefire way to serve the community is by providing a venue for readers to physically meet authors for book signings and being a place for book clubs to have book discussions. Social media may enhance this, but it will never take the place of real social gatherings.

In order to connect the readers and the authors, bookstores will need a strong presence both online and off. And easy-to-navigate website will be a must (and would seem common sense), as well as accounts with popular social media outlets. “Frequent reader discounts” issued by way of printable coupons, QR codes or text-codes will help maintain the bookstore’s status with the reader. Online mailing lists and text alerts will also be an important aspect of being able to spread the word about upcoming events and book releases quickly and efficiently. Bookstores that are not able to take advantage of these online tools will not survive.

Going forward, bookstore staff will have to be extremely attentive to customers. The amount of knowledge and service that a bookstore can give will have to justify the cost of the books it sells since the Internet has made it very easy to find, purchase and download books. Amazon’s algorithms are pretty neat but can never compare to a person you can relate to who can tell you why they like or dislike certain books.

The bookstore of the future will need a way to satisfy the customer’s need for instant gratification. The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA, is a perfect example. It has an “Espresso Book Machine” that can readily print 5,000 different titles and also has the capacity to print self-published titles. This printing press is a dual blessing. It lowers the amount of non-revenue generating inventory for the bookstore, and it gives the customer what he/she wants in a matter of minutes. Why wait on a book to be shipped to you in a few days when you can get it within hours, if not minutes, of purchase?

Bookstores will continue to be a “watering hole” for the literati of the area the bookstore serves. Book-browsers don’t get the staff or the rent paid.  In order to stay afloat, bookstores will have to be savvy in the ways of how technology and the Internet can even the playing field with the online places books can be purchased and/or downloaded. (email to author, 7 December 2013)

Prospero blog on arts and culture, economist.com

 . . . Bricks-and-mortar bookstores appear to be on borrowed time. So, what is the future of the bookstore?

This was the burning questions on everyone’s lips at a recent event at Foyles’s flagship bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London, where some of Britain’s leading literary agents, authors, marketing managers and booksellers gathered to discuss its fate ahead of the bookseller’s move from its current rambling premises to the former home of Central Saint Martin’s art school just up the road.

For a bookstore to remain successful, it must improve “the experience of buying books,” says Alex Lifschutz, an architect whose London-based practice is designing the new Foyles. He suggests an array of approaches: “small, quiet spaces cocooned with books; larger spaces where one can dwell and read; other larger but still intimate spaces where one can hear talks from authors about books, literature, science, travel and cookery.” The atmosphere is vital, he adds. Exteriors must buzz with activity, entrances must be full of eye-catching presentations and a bar and café is essential.

The trend for not only incorporating cafés in bookstores but also placing them on the top floor makes good sense. The new Foyles will have one, Mr Lifschutz explains, because this draws shoppers upwards floor-by-floor, which is bound to encourage people to linger longer and spend more. (Top-floor restaurants in department stores abide by similar principles.)

There are plenty of ways to delight the bookstore customer, but few are easily monetised. The consensus is that bookstores need to become cultural destinations where people are prepared to pay good money to hear a concert, see a film or attend a talk. The programming will have to be intelligent and the space comfortable . . .

To survive and thrive, bookstores should celebrate the book in all its forms: rare, second-hand, digital, self-printed and so on. Digital and hybrid readers should have the option of buying e-books in-store, and budding authors should have access to self-printing book machines. The latter have been slower to take off in Britain, but in America bookstores are finding them to be an important source of revenue. “The quality is now almost identical to that of a book printed by a major publishing house,” says Bradley Graham, owner of a leading independent bookstore in Washington, DC, called Politics & Prose. His shop leases an Espresso Book Machine and makes it available to customers.

The bookstore of the future will have to work hard. Service will be knowledgeable and personalised, the inventory expertly selected, spaces well-designed and the cultural events enticing. Whether book stores, especially small independents are up to the challenge, is not clear. The fate of these stores is a cliff-hanger. (Blog post, “A Real Cliffhanger,” 27 February 2013)

Mike Shatzkin, The Shatzkin Files at idealog.com

Their business [of Barnes & Noble], on which they must make money, is selling books. They are trying to diversify their merchandise selection a bit in their stores, but that’s a strategy that is both difficult to execute and has nowhere near the upside that Amazon, Google, and Apple have with their other businesses. This is an unfair fight where B&N is dependent on margins from their ebook (and book) sales while their competitors, if perhaps not totally content to break even on that business, aren’t materially affected if they do, or even if they lose a bit of money on that aspect of their business . . .

In other words, publishing — like book retailing — is likely to become a subsidiary function pursued in strategic support of larger goals. Unlike in retailing, this will not be consolidated among a few players, but as widely scattered as the subjects about which books are produced. But the core challenge for the legacy publishing establishment, that they will increasingly face competition that doesn’t need the profits from that activity as much as they do, will be the same. Book publishing as a stand-alone industry with most of its significant players earning all their profits within it is in the process of morphing into something quite different, starting with the retailers. (Blog post, “Book publishing may not remain a stand-alone industry and book retailing will demonstrate that first,” 29 January 2014)

Read the entire Bookstores of the Future series in the #noticed category

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

The Lovely Glow of Too Many Irons in the Fire

The Lovely Glow of Too Many Irons in the Fire

I’ve got too many irons in the fire.

I’d like to say that this is a rare event. But juggling multiple projects can be fun, which must be why I tend to overbook my creative energies.

Here’s what is going on:

Bookstore of the Future project

Yesterday I reached out to 55 book bloggers for the second Bookstore of the Future project, asking them the key questions: What will the bookstore of the future look like? How can bookstores innovate in order to stay relevant and solvent in the era of ebooks and ecommerce?

I had an immediate response from author and blogger extraordinaire C. M. Mayo who posted a link to my blog on her Madam Mayo blog. See it here.

Author responses keep trickling in but the crown goes to thriller author Dale Brown (Whaaaat? You haven’t read FLIGHT OF THE OLD DOG? Read it. Immediately.) who was the first to respond, in part, with this comment: “Carmen: Interesting project! I haven’t been in a bookstore to buy a book since I discovered Amazon Books in 1996.” Look for his full response when “What is the Future of the Bookstore? 25 Influential Authors Weigh In” is published in early January.

Finally, I had an interesting exchange with author Jeff Faria who is teaming with Symposia Bookstore in Hoboken, New Jersey on a “bookstore/playspace.” Look for more on this in the third article featuring bookstore owner views.

NaNoWriMo and DIABLO NIGHTS

I didn’t complete a 50k word manuscript in November, thanks to the flu. What I did end up with, however, is the guts of the next Emilia Cruz mystery novel. Familiar elements are there: dirty cops, drug cartels, Emilia’s uncertainty about her relationship with a gringo and grudging partnership with Silvio. But DIABLO NIGHTS also digs into Mexico’s religious history as well as Acapulco’s tourism industry. There’s also the anything-for-a-peso mindset I encountered from time to time in Mexico. This could be the most provocative Emilia Cruz novel yet.

I exchanged ideas for the book’s religious research with author and university professor Andrew Chesnut, whose articles on The Huffington Post are always absorbing. I recommend subscribing to his Huffpost feed.

“The Angler”

This Emilia Cruz short story will draw elements from the real events surrounding the murder of Fr. Richard Junius, who was my pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mexico City, which I wrote about last year.

To my knowledge, Fr. Richard’s  murderer has never been found. Expect a different ending in “The Prayer;” justice via fiction.

Water.org

In 2014 I plan to partner with water.org to raise funds for basic sanitation. I will donate a dollar for every Kindle book I sell on Amazon in 2014. To maximize the effort, I’m considering asking fellow authors to donate a portion of their earnings for a selected month. For their month, I’ll promote them on my blog and on the fundraiser page. They’d get added exposure as well as make a meaningful contribution for a great cause. What do you think?

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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

 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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