A lot is said about the future of bookstores. With e-readers and online shopping who really needs to go to a bookstore anyways?
To some degree I agree with this. I sometimes feel a little guilty ordering stuff online. Especially when ordering from a store that is only a couple of miles from me (it’s been known to happen). But. This is why I generally tend to order online rather than buy in person.
- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been like I’m just going to run to wherever to pick up this thing that I saw that they had online. Only to get there and figure out that it’s out of stock or only sold online.
- Time. By the time you factor in getting ready (assuming you aren’t already) getting out the door, driving, shopping, driving again…. you have spent at least 5x longer than it would have taken you to order the thing in the first place. And then with kids? Seriously.
Which brings me to this point. The only reasons (in my opinion) to go to a physical store are:
- You can get it cheaper than online.
- You want to compare similar items in person
- You really like the experience.
Bookstores in particular should be paying attention to point #3. A physical bookstore is not going to be able to compete with the online selection of an online retailer. And they are going to find it hard to compete with the price (permafree, kindle unlimited)…. but there is no way for an online store to recreate the experience of a bookstore.
Which is oddly where I think many bookstores (especially some of the bigger names) are coming up short.
Who doesn’t love sitting in a huge comfy chair flipping through a book surrounded by that bookstore smell (it exists and there is probably a more creative way to describe it but I couldn’t think of it).
Or a late night cramming session with limited distractions (i.e. No tv or people talking to you).
Even better if the lounging/studying comes with coffee and something to eat (side point why are there not bookstores that sell wine. Isn’t that the whole point of book clubs? The wine? Joking. Kinda).
I live fairly close to a large big name book store. And awhile ago (over a year) I wanted some kid free writing time. The DH was on board so off I went. Now I have a used Mac that can’t hold a charge to save its life. Literally I can watch the battery percentage drop. So I need an outlet. Turns out this big name store just down the street has less than 3 accessible to the public. Less than 3! I even asked.
The chairs. Not horrible but not what I would call comfy. They are wooden, kinda straight, poorly positioned if you are trying to write without the person behind you seeing everything you are putting down.
Not because of these reasons particularly, but probably influenced by them, I don’t frequent this store often. But I have a toddler. And I would like said toddler to like books. So I we made a trip not too long ago.
I was pleasantly surprised. Granted my standards were low. But the kids area has a train table. And seriously. That train table was a solid hour of free entertainment for my kid. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. And at the end, we picked up a couple of books. I could have just picked the books up on Amazon. Who knows they could have been cheaper. But we we were there and I wanted my kid to experience picking them out.
Which brings me to my primary point. No one is going to buy anything from a store they aren’t in. You need people to go into the store to even get the chance that they will buy something. A train table is a start. Story time is a start. But there is so much more potential. Book clubs (with wine! Or heck, wine tastings), comfy sitting areas. computer access or research areas, outlets, larger interactive toy areas (that can be book/character related) to name a few. I mean wouldn’t a larger (free) kid friendly play area in a bookstore draw in so many more people??? The train table was a hot commodity let me tell you. Standing room only in that place but the area in general was small and couldn’t accommodate more than a few families.
Personally I really like bookstores. I want them to stay around. I have an e-reader and I like it, but I also like the bookstore experience. Because its different, and unique, and special. I think that experience can encourage reading in future generations but I am worried that if bookstores aren’t willing to change how they approach selling books (trying to compete with price or selection) that won’t happen.
*disclaimer* This is just my opinion. I don’t have a marketing or retail background. So I could be wrong. My perspective is that of a customer. Not as a business owner.