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Old 01-12-2013, 10:43 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by pidgeon92 View Post
There can be niche bookstores. The neighborhood I live in has a high lesbian population, and there is a bookstore that specializes in books for that demographic. It appears to do quite good business.
It could be that the store provides more than books. When I was younger, I used to participate in fantasy and historic games. We played Saturday mornings at a store called The Toy Soldier. The guy who owned the store ran the games. He specialized in the figures, literature, and accessories we played with so we overpaid a bit for the convenience of shopping where we played. He also provided expertise and was a good guy. That was in the 80s, so we had few alternatives and there was no such thing as super saver shipping, but this was a situation in which a guy made a living in a niche.
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:56 PM   #32
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Of course, that can very easily backfire. A *LOT* of people'd give nosy buggers like that the stinkeye and then never come back. If the customer looks like they actually need help, fine, approach with a "Can I help you?" or equivalent (and, seriously, give them at least a full minute - they might just be a browser rather than need help finding something!), but otherwise leave them alone and wait to let them come to you for "engagement".
This, exactly. I can't stand it when I go into a store and salespeople won't leave me alone. This would especially bother me in a bookstore. If I want/need help, I'll ask for it. I have walked out of stores because salespeople were too pushy/nosy.

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Old 01-13-2013, 02:49 AM   #33
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Definitely. The advantage they have is being able to select stock based on local demand. If the locals want vampire novels, they can stock the whole Anita Blake series, the Ann Rice set, and the Twilight books. If the locals don't care about vampire novels, they can skip all of those and stock extra military adventures instead.
There's *some* variation, sure - I remember when Wittgenstein's Vienna was the bestselling book one month in Bloomington.

But I don't believe that there's that much variation.

Nor do I believe that independent bookstore owners (or anyone, really) has enough knowledge to capitalize on whatever regional difference there might be.

There's a reason that B&N and Borders drove smaller bookstores out of business, and the reason is that they carried far more books.

And Amazon carries even more.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:05 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Andrew H. View Post
There's a reason that B&N and Borders drove smaller bookstores out of business, and the reason is that they carried far more books.

And Amazon carries even more.
Uh, there are currently over 1000 independent bookstores in the US.
Barring a few that may be newly opened to fill in gaps from the Borders implosion, most are survivors of decades of chain store competition and over 15 years of Amazon competition.

*Somebody* is buying their books.

Just this past holiday season (if we believe published reports) at the same time B&N was seeing decreased traffic and significantly reduced sales, the ABA indies were seeing an 8% growth in revenue. Despite the bigger Amazon catalog, despite the lower Amazon prices, despite the point and click convenience.

I'm a value shopper myself but I try not to blind myself to the reality that there are other shopping experiences and other buyer profiles. Not every independent bookstore lives off a niche nor does every bookstore that *does* live *solely* off that niche. There *is* variation in shopper habits and it is a very fine-grained variation; the closer you get to the ground the more you see it. Conversely, the further away you get from the real world of the customer the less you see that variation; instead of little pockets of this or that, you only see a vast homogeneous "gray goo"; the lowest common denominator.

That is the issue that B&N must now grapple with: they are more vulnerable to the big cheap Amazon catalog than the indies because the indies have "evolved" to survive side by side with cheap giant catalogs whereas B&N hasn't. They haven't developed the customer-centric focus, the local sensibility, and the other survival skills needed when you're *not* the top of the food chain. (I'll skip the small mammal/big dino analogies.)

Amazon's strength is they can blend their volume sales-driven pricing and deep catalog with advanced analytics that approximate the local/personal savvy of a *good* bookstore operator. That works beautifully for a lot of us.

But other people have other priorities, other habits, other profiles. Some only buy NYT bestsellers, others prefer lit-fic; some like quick and efficient online, some like even more personalized focus than even Amazon's analytics can provide. Let's not dismiss the folks that actually like spending and hour or two walking among book racks just to see "what's out there". I used to do it with friends: a "night on the town" used to be an hour or so at Borders chatting about this book or that, a movie at the multiplex next to it, and dinner at a restaurant at the mall. Fond memories.
A simple experience for simple folk.

Again: I don't see B&N disappearing just yet but if it happens it will be because for too many customers they offer no compelling reason to deal with them; they are neither cheap/deep enough to appeal to value-focused shoppers nor focused enough to appeal to experience-focused shoppers. They have spent so much time pleasing their suppliers and planning their great war with Amazon they forgot they have to please the customers. "Win the hearts and minds of the natives".

Like it or not, the US is a wide-open competitive market.
There are few if any market-distorting protections for the incompetent so the result is a consumer dominated environment. Consumers vote with their feet and their mouse clicks and their wallets. Focus on anything else and you're at risk of getting left behind.
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Old 01-13-2013, 12:15 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Uh, there are currently over 1000 independent bookstores in the US.
Barring a few that may be newly opened to fill in gaps from the Borders implosion, most are survivors of decades of chain store competition and over 15 years of Amazon competition.

*Somebody* is buying their books.
I'm skeptical that this is a meaningful number.

When I use Indiebound.org's "Indie Store Finder," it tells me that there are 11 indie bookstores within 10 miles of me (I live in an urban area). That sounds pretty good, but when I actually look at the bookstores I find this:

(1) 1 store that, I think, fits everyone's idea of what an indie bookstore is.
(2) 3 kids "book and toy stores" (the toys are interesting educational type toys, with many wooden toys.)
(3) 1 comic book store.
(4) 1 used bookstore.
(5) 3 museum gift shops.
(6) 1 mystery bookstore that closed 3 years ago.
(7) 1 Gay/Lesbian bookstore that closed 4 years ago.
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:13 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by wizwor View Post
That's no advantage. There are no local tastes. The entire world watches CNN. Everyone wants the same things. The NY Times and Oprah tell us what we want to read.
Not when you read interesting books - scifi and fantasy! I never follow "best seller" or "literary" lists for what to read.
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:24 PM   #37
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I never follow "best seller" or "literary" lists for what to read.
Neither do I. I look at them, and may buy one or two that are on the list. However, I don't look at them and say, "OK, this book is on the list so I'll read it."
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:29 PM   #38
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Neither do I. I look at them, and may buy one or two that are on the list. However, I don't look at them and say, "OK, this book is on the list so I'll read it."
What???? You don't?
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Old 01-13-2013, 04:13 PM   #39
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Not when you read interesting books - scifi and fantasy! I never follow "best seller" or "literary" lists for what to read.
I don't follow them either. I find many of my next reads just browsing a bookstore, whether that is a B&M one or online. I've stumbled across some good ones that way.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:28 PM   #40
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This article, by a publishing industry consultant, contains some interesting analysis.

http://www.idealog.com/blog/stats-ar...-our-business/

He thinks that 50% of fiction sales are ebooks, and around 25-35% are online sales of print books, leaving around 30-35% for print books sold in physical stores. I agree that this probably explains the decline in shelf space, especially as nonfiction has also declined in physical store sales, although much less.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:28 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by Sregener View Post
If B&N does disappear, I think we'll see a lot more of those independent bookstores spring up.

But it is curious that the article concludes that because Amazon doesn't buy a title until it's sold, the publishers will give up printing the books to begin with. Nothing like concluding that because you're selling millions of copies, it's time to get out of the business altogether...

As for showrooming, I do that at the library.
If I am not mistaking. Microsoft just invested 500 million in BN. So don't plan on them going away anytime soon.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:49 PM   #42
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If I am not mistaking. Microsoft just invested 500 million in BN. So don't plan on them going away anytime soon.
MS will buy the rest of B&N plus Netflix.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:57 PM   #43
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If I am not mistaking. Microsoft just invested 500 million in BN. So don't plan on them going away anytime soon.
They invested in Nook Media, not B&N as a whole if I'm not mistaken. Same with Pearson and their $89.5 million investment.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:04 PM   #44
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They invested in Nook Media, not B&N as a whole if I'm not mistaken. Same with Pearson and their $89.5 million investment.
Yep. The future is ebook, not pbook....

http://bgr.com/2012/10/04/nook-media...t-partnership/
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:24 AM   #45
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Yep. The future is ebook, not pbook....
Neil Postman famously called technology a Faustian bargain - technology gives with the one hand, but it takes away with the other and while we readily see what we're getting, it takes a while to figure out what we've lost. eBooks are taking something away from us, and I can only hope that whatever it is turns out to be not so bad.
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