Monday, August 9, 2010

A Semi-new Idea for Bookstores

Cross post with

I had a vision.

It came to me while I was thinking about how indie published authors could get into the “big box” stores. The vision was not about that. The vision was what a large, mainstream, book store might look like, a few years from now.

Why do we go to book stores? To find books we want to own. It like a scavenger hunt. We browse among the shelves looking for the right title to jump out at us. We take a look inside and then decide if we want it. Around us is the smell of the other books, other people looking, and the smell of coffee, even if there isn't a coffee shop.

But things are changing. Ebooks are becoming popular. Not many new authors can break into the business, so many go indie publish, the book stores are nervous about carrying them because no guarantee on buying back the books that don't sell. The Espresso Book Machine® can print books out in a matter of minutes. More people are getting their books online and not stopping in the bookstore. So how can a brick and mortar book store compete?

By changing their focus from a place to find books, to a place to socialize about books. Some smaller bookstores are already heading this way, so this vision is not something new.

This would be a simple change. First combine the best aspects of a coffee house with a book store. Many have already done this. So not a big change for some. This would allow you to have access not only to food and drink while you browse, but perhaps some live entertainment as well.

The books will not have disappeared. The big names will still be on the shelves, some of the lesser known ones as well, but you will notice that instead of fifty copies of the latest Stephan King, they would carry five. Why? To cut down on space and storage, you would have to cut back on the amount of books you physically carry. But what if you want a book that they don't already have on the shelves?

Enter the Espresso Book Machine, or a similar item. I could see at the tables, and at the counters, computers hooked up to the ultimate database of books. You could browse in the catalog and order your book to be published. As you wait, enjoy your coffee or tea. A few minutes later, your book is ready at the counter, hot off the press.

Of course you could down load the ebook at the same time if you wish.

To keep the customers coming back the book store would have to throw more “entertainment” in. More book signings, some stores only do one a month. What about 3 times a week? What about special nights geared to genres. Book clubs hosted at the store? Writer clubs? Heck even an old fashion D an D session now and then.

Do you see where I am going with this? It would no longer be a place just to buy a book, but a place to experience and socialize with other lovers of the same genre, hobby, and author. Not like a library which is great for research and quiet time. I could see the new book store being like a nightclub for us bookworms. Of course I could see it closing at 10pm due to the fact most of us don't stay out that late (at least I don't, not much)

It would be a combination of embracing the changing trends and utilizing social networking. I would love to have a place like that. Managers of the stores could offer more indie books because they would be printed as needed, the fear of not being able to send back the unsold ones would be gone.

And a place like this would not be like running into a big box store and picking up a soft-cover while buying milk. It would be an experience. One that you would want to do over and over again.

This would not be a used bookstore, or a specialty bookstore, they serve their own functions. But I think if the larger chains or even the independent bookstores are going to survive, they have to change how they present their books and open up to more ways to enjoy a book.

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