I thought this article was an interesting and thought-provoking commentary on how regular bookstores could co-exist with ebooks instead of fearing the competition: http://www.teleread.com/borders/can-...book-customer/
It made me think about how our local Chapters-Indigo stores (in Canada) could do better at this. Many of the chain stores do have a prominent Kobo display (not surprising since the two companies are partners), but it must still be a concern to the people who work there that ebooks take away from their business. But maybe this doesn't have to be the case.
There are two ways to look at the business of bricks&mortar bookstores:
a) They are a channel for distributing paper books that need physical storage and display space, for those that still prefer paper.
b) They are a wonderful library for browsing for new content, much richer and more satisfying than the online book browsing experience.
To the extent that they focus on a), they are already competing with retailers like Amazon who offer the books cheaper by mail, and now ebooks will eat away even more at their business.
But many already focus on b), improving the in-person browsing experience.
What they lack is a direct link from the browsing experience to the sale of ebooks.
I like to browse for books in the bookstore. I like it a lot better than browsing for books online. The problem is that if a I find a book I like, and I'd like to have it as an ebook, I can't buy it right away. I have to think "I must remember to buy that later" - but I often forget or just don't bother.
Suppose that the bookstore had an ebook sale station where you could take a book, scan its bar code, enter your Kobo account name/pwd (or just scan your own personal paper card with a bar code), and the corresponding ebook would be automatically added and charged to your Kobo account. The sale would be made immediately, and the ebook would be downloaded to your Kobo the next time you sync. You wouldn't need to have your Kobo with you (after all, how many people are carrying their Kobo when they drop in to the bookstore?). Impulse ebook buying would get a lot easier - and that would equal higher sales.
Now add a small commission on the sale to the bookstore, for providing the browsing experience and point-of-sale processing, which is their actual value added. Now you have a business model that could work.