Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prithee, Inform Me: Retailing Versus E-Tailing

Remember, writers and readers, when I said that the decline of brick-and-mortar chains could spark an indie bookstore renaissance? Well, it turns out that Paul Carr over at TechCrunch just said the exact same thing. Great minds! &c, &c.

The point being: while Borders may very well emerge from bankruptcy and go on to survive for years, their current store closings (numbering 200, or a little less than a third) will generate storefront vacancies. Some buildings will turn into something else entirely, but I'm betting a fair number will house independent bookstores.

As Paul mentions (and as I've said), there are a number of functions brick-and-mortar stores serve (specialized knowledge, author events, cafés, the experience of physically browsing, and so on) that can't be duplicated by on-line vendors.

That said, I'm sticking with my long-standing belief that independent booksellers will make something of a comeback this decade. As for you folks: do you agree? And what would draw you away from the convenience of buying books in your living room and out to your local bookstore?

18 comments:

  1. It would probably help if I HAD a local bookstore less than an hour away. But if there was an author I wanted to meet, I'd make the drive.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  2. They won't go away. Too many love their traditional book format (hardcover, paperback) to let them go. You're not the first person I've heard predict that they'll be come a niche marketplace. We shall see. But I agree, there will be a comeback for the "brick and mortar." After all, the Dot-com universe came back to life.

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  3. I agree. There is something about walking the shelves that too many people will miss. I like a great atmosphere with a group of people discussing politics over coffee at one table and another group talking about string theory over their pastries at another. I hope we get some cool indie stores out of this crazy industry soon.

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  4. There are some independent urban focused stores popping up that are owned by writer, marketeer and publisher Carl Weber. He's opened more Urban Knowledge bookstores this last year.

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  5. Absolutely agree. Great opportunity for the indies to fill a niche!

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  6. I think that child-focused bookstores in general could be incredibly successful. Sure, lots of kids are reading on their e-readers, but a child-focused area could also do really, really well. Four year olds are still okay with being read a wonderfully illustrated book. Storytimes, events, parties, etc. There's the bonus toy/game section. Our local library makes a killing and a small, independent bookstore could really tear it up...and I'm sure this community isn't alone.

    Plus bookstores should gear, just in general, toward the 'hang-out' style of selling. Community rooms for adults, coffee, etc. A basic meeting place is always, always welcome in a community.

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  7. I loathe shopping at big chain bookstores (can't stand the atmosphere)... I usually only shop at independent and used bookstores... I think I'm not alone, but part of a growing trend of people.

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  8. I hope you're right!! Now that my local B&N has closed I don't have any place in my city to go and browse, hang out, check out new books etc. I miss that store so much! So I encourage all bookish people to think about opening a small bookstore...

    Bookstores are important--I'm really worried about the time when there will be so few bookstores that people won't really be thinking about books anymore...because they won't see them in store windows, in people's hands on the subway etc etc..). Books make great gifts, but if you go to your mall and the bookstore isn't there anymore.....

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  9. I'm hoping you're right, Eric. Certainly here in the Kansas City area the most exciting bookstore is the independent Rainy Day Books, who just this past year hosted events featuring Anna Quindlen, Richard Russo, and Yann Martel, among many others. Physicist Brian Greene is coming in a couple of weeks. The store also has a great newsletter and knows their product. This kind of service gets people excited about books!

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  10. Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown (UK) tweeted a link to Tuesday's blog post from Green Apple Books on Clement St. in San Francisco.

    From Green Apple's post: While we were never fans of Borders' aggressive expansion, which effectively shut down hundreds of locally owned independent bookstores in the US, we will not dance on their grave. They did a lot of things right, which is why they thrived for a while. But in their absence, we're hopeful that fewer chain stores may mean more opportunity for local indie bookstores.

    Worth a full read...

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  11. If there's a book I want, I buy it online (paper version, I don't have an e-reader). But I do that only rarely, or for work, as I don't have much money. Much more often, I'll spot a sale in a bookshop at a motorway service station, or occasionally an airport, or a train station, and I'll flick through a few books, and if there are two or three I like the look of, I buy them. So I won't stop using bookshops, especially ones that happen to be placed on my route somewhere.

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  12. I would much rather shop at my local indy than online and have been an aggressive promoter for others in my town to do likewise. If I see a book online I want, I call my local indy and have them order it for me. (It's about the same price, the same wait and no minimum order for free shipping.)

    I just posted an article on my blog this morning suggestion a way for people to better support authors and their local bookstore simultanously.

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  13. I hope indie bookstores make a comeback. I love the one in our neighborhood. It hosts many author events that the large retail chains never bothered with.

    Love your blog, by the way.

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  14. Browsing in a bookstore on a rainy afternoon is my favorite pastime and if they have a coffee shop, or author's reading all the better. And if the owner knows your name...well then it's a second home.

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  15. I agree with Jil: there's just something about the atmosphere of a bookstore that just can't be replaced anywhere else.

    Personally, half the joy of a book to me is picking out the copy that smells the best. You know, smells like it has the best character. Maybe that's strange, but I always sniff out the book that is "mine."

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  16. Besides the library, browsing through books at a bookstore is divine. Some of the Indie bookstores I enjoy (in San Francisco there's plenty) also have music nights as well as great Indie authors and poets. I like hearing the authors read their works, like talking to other readers discuss books - no, I won't stop going to my Indie's for all the internet shopping of books or Kindles, or ereaders.

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  17. I sure hope so. I'm a relatively young librarian up on all the latest technology, but you know what? I don't like e-books. ;)

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  18. To me, buying a book is a tactile decision. I want to FEEL the book. Flip through it. Smell it. Feel its weight. I might end up buying it in e-book form, mostly because it might be cheaper (and lighter), but I still like shopping for books too much to depend on what I see online. It's like shopping for clothes. Although I can buy a coat online, I would rather feel the material and try it on before I buy it -- even if I end up buying it online because they don't have my size in the store.

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