Bookshops Charging for Browsing? That’s Crazy!
The shoe shops in the U.S. charging customers to try on shoes have made headlines across the world; I mean, it’s crazy, right? Does it put people off buying their shoes? Some retail experts think so. Well, Victoria Barnsley, CEO of Harper Collins seems to think brick and mortar bookshops may have to start charging patrons to browse titles in their shops and described the idea as "not that insane", particularly with the threat from online shopping.
Barnsley was on the BBC Radio 4’s The Bottom Line program on Saturday (9th February) with Kobo’s Michael Tamblyn and literary agent Jonny Geller to talk about the future of publishing when she suggested a fee to browse.
Citing a reported figure that only 35% of fiction in the UK is bought through a physical bookshop, Barnsley commented: "They are under enormous pressure," suggesting that asking customers to "pay for the privilege of browsing" was not an insane concept in the current environment… But she said the survival of the physical bookshop was "the big question". "Readers still do quite like physical books, the question is, will they be able to buy them, actually.
The trio also discussed eBooks, both pricing and market share, with Barnsley suggesting that it was likely to split about 50/50 between paper books and electronic versions. But they all agreed the low prices contribute to the threat to physical bookstores. Geller hit the nail on the head when he said: "If you're going to pay 20p for Life of Pi, which is a film, why would you ever pay £1?"
And that’s a good point. I can’t say I would pay to browse in a bookshop — I do still buy books in the flesh, but not every time I go into the store. Would you pay for the privilege of shopping in a physical bookstore or would that put you off, too?
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