Hi everyone. I think this is the perfect place to discuss the future of bookstores. I live in Southern California and I'm noticing a few indie bookstores popping up and filling the gulf that Borders' bankruptcy left. Do any of you all see more indie book stores opening? Is there a certain type of bookstore that you like? Or is there a certain good or service that you feel a book store should offer to remain relevant?
Personally, I feel that more bookstores will open because they are a great place to hang out and they enhance the communities in which they exist. Have a good one and look forward to a nice discussion.
Indie bookstores are great when they don't have the same exact selection as Barnes and Noble. I'm fond of Powell's.
People said record stores would go away, but they didn't. Same with bookstores: some close, others open. Consumer tastes change often enough that retail options appear fluid in the long run, regardless of an industry's condition.
Like Bradley said, whether an indie store is good depends on the selection. An indie store with small, uninteresting selection is more frustrating than anything. It would take a hell-of-a-lot of "local charm and character" to make me shop there if they don't sell anything I want.
Seems like most indie places have pretty much the same selection as a Barnes and Noble, only smaller. There was a place with a dull selection that I used to love for its ambiance. It was in the middle of nowhere, next to a cool waterfall, and had tasty food in its cafe.
I work for a publisher. We need independent bookstores to thrive. On line is awesome but can't do everything. Want to met authors at events? Want to just browse what is out there? if it all goes "e" we won't have any physical. That's not so good.
I'm not a fan of readings at bookstores. Readings always seem to be better elsewhere in places like bars and coffee shops. Perhaps there's a way for stores to make them more interesting.
Thanks for the replies folks! I agree Powells is amazing, that place is kind of like an entity in of itself.
I like J.Y's point about having an interesting selection. I think this is where the retailer has to do some of the 'work' of having a book store. It would have to be a two way street however to get the fire going. If you came into the store, browsed, became unimpressed then left, that wouldn't help the retailer serve your needs best. If you came in, mentioned to the retailer what you like, then it's up to the retailer to curate a selection that fits you and your kind in order to increase the likelihood of getting you back into the store.
Here in SoCal, we are expanding our Libros En Espanol section because more Spanish speakers want to read in their native language.
Covewriter: Your point is huge regarding the need for physical retailers. As a publisher, nothing is more frightening than not having a physical showroom for one's wares. We take time refining the way the book feels, looks and 'reads'. All that love and attention to detail must be rewarded by having a retailing partner to share the love of design and function to push the books to people. I have a joke that book stores are for people people and Amazon is for engineers with Aspergers. "I don't want to have to talk to anyone!"
Bradley-- I recently attended to 'book rep' events at a couple of local indie book stores. One event was free and they had wine and cheese. After the rep presentation they raffled off some books. The second event was 20 dollars per person, the rep presentation was the same, and they gave away books as prizes as well as if you made a book purchase you got to pick a free book from a shelf of back list books.
I definitely think a book store has to expand it's food offerings to wine and cheese as well as update their event rooms to create an environment where the event is special and not simply taking place in-between a row of shelves.
I was talking to customer today about how to inject some exictement into book stores. We cam eup with an after hours book store. A place where wine could flow along with poetry. I don't know, I'm obsessed with the idea of crafting an experience within the book store then allowing it to grow to sustain the book store. It's that fine balance between showing up for people and having the people show up for you. Quite the challenge.
Booze, food, and strong selection of oddities.
People want more of a place to meet/discuss books then a place to buy them, and providing/facilitating that space as the focus with books as a sideline seems more pragmatic then vice versa.
As for oddities, why bother to go to a bookstore if I know I want a copy of bestseller X? No offence, but I have no loyalty to the concept of a physical bookstore or publishers. If someone sells it online cheaper, I'm fine with that. If I go to a bookstore on a normal visit I want something odd I'd never have thought to look for.
Thanks Dwayne, food for thought right there. I agree, the bestseller is a lost cause for the indie book store. Costco and Target get those by the boat load. Def. thinking that the 'place to meet up' is a winner. The key would be to figure out how to make enough money to keep the place up and running. What do you think of events? A place to meet the writers you love?
Wanna talk about an oddity? I've got a local soap maker making a line of soap for my book. I want crazy merch so people that want to live in the world of the book have a chance to. I'm wondering if that might be a good way to go. Find the right type of classy merchandise that would compel a fan to buy it.
Aw hell, here I am sounding too businessy. Brotha needs to slow down...
No, most people don't sound businessy enough. If want to improve your writing, you need to keep the lights on.
I'd try to do a business model like Half Priced Books merged with a local restaurant that was doing well. Get the environmentally friendly crowd with mostly reused books, and some organic/health food. Install a magazine rack and a shelf for best sellers and a shelf for staff recommendations. You can order a book with the meal as a combo thing. Burger (or organic tofu or whatever your customers are wanting to buy), drink, fries, and paperback combo. Have an area you can close off in the dinning area for authors and book clubs, maybe even gaming (D&D or board games) if you don't mind attracting an even dorkier crowd. Coffee bar if you can squeeze it in, people will pay five bucks for a quarter's worth of coffee and milk. Sell alcohol or at least beer if you can, which might even be worth the spills on the products once you take into account the increase in impulse buys. A cheaper version of Google Print on demand would be great. Could do theme nights, Telephoneless Tuesdays, friendly Fridays sat down to have a meal with a random person, stuff like that.
I agree with WendellB. It'd be great to see a few indie stores attempt to create an environment surrounding literature. Build a community with actionable items that result in something tangible. Writer's groups that maintain a certain level of quality in the members. Not that everyone doesn't deserve to learn but I can't go to Meetup writers groups anymore after hearing the tenth guy read his vampire lesbian erotica. Create locals-only writing competitions that result in an anthology. Hold classes on online self-publishing (seems counter productive but they're going to get the info somewhere and it's better to be the authority). For the non-writers create book clubs where the book is "free" with a subscription to the group. Creates themes around these groups like, "Influential People of Eastern Germany," or "Four Months with Coco Chanel."
When I lived in Florida Books-A-Million did this by holding Yu-Gi-Oh battles in their store once a week. A little annoying to browse the store during those hours but it brought in tons of parents and kids. More importantly it created a sense of community and enjoyment. These emotional triggers cause people to visit the store more often even outside the events because they associate those feelings with the location in general.
I partially agree with the idea for related merchandise as well. When digital completely takes over I hope there are at least small collector's edition hardback copies left. Maybe they won't print 10k copies at once, maybe there are only 500 but they're gorgeously produced and $150 each. Anyone could buy the digital copy but owning the actual thing would be a testament to how highly you regard that work. People would take time to read through book shelves again instead of just saying, "Shit. You own too many books."
With all that said, I think diversifying to offer coffee, tea, wine or absolutely any other product during regular hours will only serve to dilute the focus of the company, staff and customers. You do one thing right, you do it completely and you incorporate it into every fiber of your business. The companies that really succeed do so because their approach is holistic.
Folks, if I am ever in a position to open my own bookstore you will be welcomed to a free book and a pint for your valuable input.