My question to you is: In this rapidly changing world of books, what is the purpose of bookstores? An immediate answer might be: to sell print books. Of course, that’s true. But in this age of digital books is that its primary purpose?
In a column in Publishers Weekly, Chris Morrow said that the bookstore is where people find good books. “The role of the bookstore as showroom, as filter, as arbiter of taste is here to stay and needs nurturing.” He calls bookstores publishers’ “best marketing and sales outlets.”
Personally, I’m not so sure bookstores are the arbiters of taste. Those bookstores carried stacks of Snookie’s lastest book, right next to other celebrity self-promotion books. Every politician, past or wannabe, can get his/her book on the shelves.
I think if bookstores want to stay “the primary vehicle for book discovery” they need to totally revamp their thinking. First, instead of depending on publishers to tell them what is worthy and good, they need to think for themselves. Second, stop carrying three hundred copies of a celebrity or wannabe-celebrity/politician’s book, which in a month they’ll have to return to the publisher. Third, change their entire model of selling books. They can still be the place people browse for books, but they will be a different store. Instead of three or five or fifty copies of a book, they’ll have one. That one copy is for patrons to look through. If they decide they want the book, they have it printed out there on the premises.
Doing it this way would allow a bookstore to have many, many more books “in-stock” and ready to buy. People like going into bookstores. I love browsing through books. But bookstores are not arbiters of taste. And at this point, they can’t shelve enough books. Last week, I wanted a particular, extremely popular book. I went to my local B&N. They didn’t have it. I drove to a close-by town to their B&N. They didn’t stock it. I came home and ordered it online. I wanted that book and I wanted it in print. If they had had an Espresso machine or another such printing machine, they could have printed it in minutes and sold it to me. Instead, they lost a sale and bit by bit, they’re losing customers and money.
What do y’all think?
1 month ago