Can Bookstores Survive? 3 Differing Points of View

Can Bookstores Survive? 3 Differing Points of View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dfbphoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra Nikolai

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

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

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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? 3 Differing Points of View

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.

 

Historic Preservation That Scares Us and Why That’s a Good Thing

Elsewhere in this blog I’ve talked about historic preservation as a means of taking the temperature of a culture. A healthy culture chooses to preserve both its good and bad: we celebrate the good and learn from the bad. The bad is often scary and it might be preferable not to remember these things but they carry unforgettable universal lessons.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

photo courtesy wikipedia commons

Background: The beautiful Gothic cathedral in the center of Vienna is home to the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Vienna. It anchors the main Stephensplatz with fantastic architecture, stained glass windows, and graceful spires (445 high at its tallest point.) Dedicated to St. Stephen in 1147, the church underwent the usual Middle Ages rebuilding and fires.  After WWII much of it was rebuilt and the cathedral reopened in 1952.

Preservation: Human remains lie under the church in its catacombs. You can tour the catacombs, passing through a narrow passage to see neatly stacked skulls in one huge chamber, femurs in another and so on. The bones are the remains of the eight cemeteries that used to exist around the church. The cemeteries were closed in 1735 due to bubonic plague and the dead were taken from the cemeteries and stored under the church in what must have been a space-saving and gruesome manner. Bodies were buried in the catacombs until 1783, when most burials within Vienna were outlawed. According to Wikipedia, the catacombs hold over 11,000 remains.

Lesson: The power of disease cannot be forgotten. Those bones symbolize the destructive power of disease and the ignorance of how to cure it. This is why today we have the Center for Disease Control.

Dachau concentration camp, outside Munich, Germany

Dauchau memorial

“Never Again” memorial, Dachau. Photo courtesy wikipedia commons

Background: Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp established in Germany, described as a camp for political prisoners. It opened in 1933, 51 days after Hitler came to power. It was in operation for 12 years and recorded 206,206 prisoners and 31,951 deaths–like all the numbers associated with Nazi death camps take these with a grain of salt.  The American forces that liberated the camp were so shocked at what they found–and by local residents’ claim that they knew nothing about the camp—that they made the residents clean it up.

Preservation: A walk through the preserved site is like walking through a cemetery while the spirits call out to you. There is a memorial and a museum. The foundation of the barracks are left. A short walk from the barracks and the parade ground is the crematorium. One oven was sized for children and is a sight I’ll never forget.

Lesson: Man’s inhumanity to man is a sledgehammer blow of a lesson when you see Dachau. Everyone who walks through here understands it at a visceral level. But genocide endures nonetheless.

Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway

Kon tiki museum photo

The Kon-Tiki raft. Photo courtesy the Kon-Tiki Museum

Background: In 1947, a young Norwegian anthropologist named Thor Heyderdahl set out to prove his theory that ancient pre-Columbian peoples traveled across the Pacific from South America to the Polynesian islands. Using only the materials that would have been available to those ancients, he constructed a balsa raft called the Kon-Tiki. Together with 5 others, he sailed it for 101 days across 4300 miles from Peru to the remote Tuamotu islands, proving his theory that such travel voyages showed that “early man had mastered sailing before the saddle and wheel were invented.”

Preservation: The Kon-Tiki raft is now in a fantastic museum in Oslo, Norway, together with another Heyderdahl raft called Ra. His archives at the Kon-Tiki Museum are part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World registery.

Lesson: This raft and its journey hardly seem to be an example of scary historic preservation until you consider the implications of Heyderdahl’s theory. Ancients travelling the globe in pre-Columbian times, settling and spreading their seeds in far-flung places means that we could all be a lot more related than we think. And that is a scary thought to many.

Arizona Battleship Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Pearl Harbor memorial

Arizona Memorial. Photo courtesy wikipedia commons

Background: On 7 December 1941, the day that will live in infamy, Japanese imperial forces attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. Waves of aircraft bombed battleships sitting at anchor, destroying much of the US’s naval power. On the USS Arizona alone, 1,177 crew members died, making it the greatest loss of life on any U.S. warship in American history.

Preservation: In 1961, a floating monument was erected over the sunken USS Arizona. Visitors can peer through the glass floor and see the mid-portion of the sunken battleship. I remember being embarrassed that I’d worn high heels; it seemed indecent that my feet should click against the watery graves of so many men. The 184-foot long Memorial also has an area called the shrine room, where the names of those killed on the Arizona are engraved on the marble wall.

Lesson: The Memorial is a powerful reminder of the havoc wreaked by war. It cautions us not to forget those who sacrifice.

Pompeii, near Naples, Italy

Pompeii in sun

Ruins at Pompeii. Photo courtesy wikipedia commons

Background: In 79 AD, the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed and buried under 13-20 feet of ash and lava when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted. It is hard to know how many people died that day but Pompeii was thought to have been a large and thriving agricultural town. The eruption, which lasted 12 hours, ironically occurred the day after the feast day of the Roman god of volcanoes.

Preservation: The ruins of Pompeii were discovered in 1748. One of the archaeologists supervising the ash removal devised a way to inject plaster into the bodies found, preserving their death agonies as they were incinerated or died from smoke inhalation. As I walked around the large site in Italy’s August heat, marveling at the amphitheaters and well-constructed homes, it was easy to think of hot ash raining down and to realize how much had been lost.

Lesson: Nature does what it will and we must respect and adapt to it. As the climate change debate goes on and we deal with unexpected droughts, tornados or snow in places that ordinarily don’t see these weather phenomena, perhaps it is a good time to consider that the people of Pompeii probably though they had the god of volcanoes well in hand.

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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.

 

5 Ways to Save What Matters

5 Ways to Save What Matters

A recent walk through Panama’s Casco Viejo–with its alternately sad and hopeful mix of gutted buildings, slumdog shacks, churches, and newly restored upscale shops and hotels–reminded me of the importance of cultural preservation.  While this historic district goes through a transformation that will ultimately preserve the best of it, other cultural legacies have disappeared and those are sad stories, as if cultural practices and language and architecture are endangered species.

So, based on a wholly uninformed point of view, here are some ideas for preserving what matters:

Repurpose

The world is full of examples, notably of buildings, that get converted to another use in order to preserve them. When I was in college, we converted a local firehouse into a theater and the highlight of the season was the lead actor sliding down the firepole to make a grand entrance in Scappino. I was the stage manager for the production and still have scars on my right hand from the scene in which the pole was transformed into a flagpole with a series of distress flags hooked to a rope. As I worked the mechanism on the top floor above the stage, the hooks snagged my hand when the actor yanked too hard on the rope.

Example: The Hardware Store in Charlottesville, VA is a former Depression-era hardware store transformed into a restaurant. The original fittings have been preserved and the ambiance is right out of the 1930’s. The concept was so successful that the restaurant anchors the modernized downtown area of the city. Oh, and my main characters eat there in a thriller I’ve been working on set in Charlottesville.

Symbolize

Use the item we want to preserve as a logo or symbol to prompt interest and identification. While this may sound like a test for graphic designers, it is a good way to place the reminder of the thing to be preserved in alot of places, including social media pages, brochures, etc.

Example: Canning Across America is a clever website dedicated to preserving (sorry, just was too perfect) the art of home canning. The site uses a logo of a canning jar that manages to be edgy and hip even as the site showcases homey pictures of gorgeous jams and veggies and such.

 

Pedestrians Only

Many spaces we want to preserve have narrow streets. Stop putting cars through the area and convert to pedestrian use only to prevent damage to buildings and facilitate tourism so people can stop and linger. Put parking and access to public transportation nearby.  This is what I hope is eventually done to Panama’s Casco Viejo, where both streets and sidewalks are narrow. Pedestrians frequently end up walking in the sreet, endangering life and limb. Buildings are so close that drivers can’t see around them as they approach intersections. Driving through can really be a game of chicken.

Example: Most old European cities were smart enough not to stuff historic plazas full of cars. There are many beautiful open spaces that invite folks to walk through and find treasures in restaurants and shops. Brussels’s Grand Place main square is a great example. In Italy, a pedestrian square is an isola pedonale and Piazza Navona is my favorite (there’s a Furla store there, so not hard to see why I like it.)

Hall of Fame

Create a showcase of the best examples of culture in certain categories. There’s the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Nascar Hall of Fame, the National Air and Space Museum, etc. Obviously, this is a versatile concept.

Example: The Library of Congress has a National Recording Registry that functions as a sound-based hall of fame. As recently reported by Huffington Post, they inducted  “25 sounds that shaped the American cultural landscape.” How cool is that?!

Make it personal

Often, people don’t respond to a concept unless it becomes personal to them. Preservationists have to find a way to tie preservation to something that is personal to the audience in order to build interest and support and even participation.

Example: The endlessly creative website yesterday.sg is devoted to preserving Singapore’s cultural heritage. A campaign in January to raise awareness was a call for people to submit wedding photos taken at Singapore’s 64 national monuments.  People who sent in wedding photos would qualify to win diamond jewelry from a local store.

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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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