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Old 04-06-2011, 03:15 PM   #1
stonetools
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What are book stores good for?

Dunno if this has been posted yet, but this deserves discussion in the aftermath of the Borders meltdown:
Quote:
A recent incident at the bookstore spurred internal conversation about the digital age.

A person came in, read many recommendation tags, and talked to a bookseller for a while to get further recommendations. Nothing surprising there. Happens every day. That is why people come here. But she was writing down the titles, not picking up the books. At one point, she made reference to her Kindle and it became clear that she was making a list to order from amazon.com as ebooks.

We have always invited browsing and we do offer services for free (author events). But somehow this incident seemed different. We want to be welcoming and open to all people, customers or not. But somehow this incident raised questions.

Some of the questions we have been mulling over:

* What is the role of a bookstore in the digital age?
* Is there a role for a bookstore in the digital age?
* Is it obvious that if many fewer people buy books here, that their resource for good book ideas will disappear?
* Or should we try to find a skillful way to make this connection in people’s minds?
* Until or unless we can sell ebooks, do we have a leg to stand on in this conversation?
* What is the sound of one hand clapping?

What do you think?
http://www.northshire.com/blog/?p=4159

Some of the comments really laid into the Kindle lady, but I've been guilty of using B&M stores as showrooms too. In fact, I much prefer browsing in bookstores-but buying ebooks online. Anyway, discuss ( hoping to keep the discussion insult-and DRM-debate free).
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:26 PM   #2
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i used to buy paper versions all the time but now that i have my kobo i don't. i was in a chapters over the weekend and people were sitting in chairs reading the books, wouldn't that be the same thing?
i had my kobo and no one came up to me, i just sat there and read and drank my coffee.
so what do they say to the people that come in three times during the week and pick the same book up and finish it without ever purchasing it?

i also hang out at my local chapters and browse books, i never hang out in it though since i live close (the previous mention was out of town) but i look around to see what i'd like to buy in ebook format.
i even have my phone out and hooked up to the kobo store and add books to my library that seem worth checking out. the ease of browsing paper books and reading the prologue or back is probably what makes it more appealing. i buy from kobo / chapters online so i have no problems of browsing purely to buy online.
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:35 PM   #3
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I think that's the most ethical approach. Don't think most do that, though
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:40 PM   #4
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Coffee, aside from the intoxicating smell of paper and fresh ink. That's what my local Borders used to be good for. Sounds like the next frontier for Starbucks, selling e-books.
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:49 PM   #5
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Lots of really good discussion here:

http://www.idealog.com/blog/where-wi...#disqus_thread

the blogger, Mike Shatzkin, who consults for the publishing industry,predicts that SIXTY FIVE percent of the B&M stores could close in the next five years. WOW!
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:51 PM   #6
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Honestly, I don't much go to the bookstore at all anymore. When I do, it's usually for crafting books (knit, crochet), which I'll buy in-store if it's in stock. If it's not in stock (which is pretty typical), then I go home and order from Amazon because it's easier than having the store special order it for me. I so badly want the instant gratification of picking up a book in the bookstore, but it just doesn't work out for me. I've also been using my library a lot more, ordering books that I want to try out and picking them up when the library notifies me it's arrived.

Since the other books I buy are mostly fiction (sci-fi/fantasy), I read reviews and recommendations online and then make my purchase online as well (usually ebook, but not always). It's simpler than picking out a book and then driving to the store (especially because of ebooks).

What's the role of bookstores in the future? I have no idea. But I think they're going to be much smaller and much more spread out than they are now, and I'm going to miss them. Even though I don't spend much money at them, I have fond memories of browsing bookstores. My daughter (13 months) has been to many bookstores lately; I love buying books for her, and she loves playing with the train sets or puzzles they have set out in the kids' area. Which is another way of saying that it's exactly like going to the library.

Last edited by queentess; 04-06-2011 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 04-06-2011, 04:01 PM   #7
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I'd miss my local Powell's (independent bookseller). *Huge* selection of new and used and as much as I love my ereaders, I still spend a lot of money on paper.

Are they going away? I don't think so, but I'd like to think we get to go back to the little local bookstore.
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Old 04-06-2011, 04:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
# Is it obvious that if many fewer people buy books here, that their resource for good book ideas will disappear?
# Or should we try to find a skillful way to make this connection in people’s minds?
Well, here's the thing. I can't speak for this bookstore, but my Borders and B&N (and the now-closed Joseph-Beth) have never been good at recommending books to me. They're chain stores, and the employees around here don't care and/or aren't into the same genres I am. There are two local-ish used bookstores (Half-Price Books and independent store) that are really great at recommending books, so I tend to shop there instead. But even that has fallen off recently, as I mostly read ebooks.

So, no, it isn't clear to me that some bookstores are my "resource for good book ideas"... in fact, I get most of my recommendations online (and the rest from the local used bookstores as mentioned above). How do you make that connection? I think that connection is there, but since people can also get recommendations online, it's hard to make them understand that "hey, if you don't buy books here, we'll go out of business, and then you don't get to talk to the friendly staff".

Last edited by queentess; 04-06-2011 at 04:05 PM.
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Old 04-06-2011, 04:11 PM   #9
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I'm probably not the person to ask since I can't recall having been in a bookstore for over a year. I really don't live that close to a bookstore though. It's a 30 minute drive for me to get to any of them ... B&N, Borders, Half Price etc.

But I've never really had the experience of the knowledgeable and helpful bookseller who would lead me to titles - certainly not at Barnes and Noble or Borders. I get that experience anymore from blogs/Goodreads/Shelfari etc.
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Old 04-06-2011, 04:43 PM   #10
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Personally, I think making use of of the staff in one store in order to buy in a cheaper store without such staff is just plain rude. You're deliberately wasting the store's resources for no benefit, not even a potential benefit, to the store. It's little different from going into a restaurant, sitting at a table, and unpacking a box lunch. Yes, stores budget for a certain amount of this. They also budget for a certain amount of shoplifting. That doesn't mean either one is right. If you're going to ask the staff questions, buy from that store. Don't expect one company to pay for your questions while you give an entirely different company your money.

I'm sure, Stonetools being who and what he is, him starting this thread was somehow a setup for a post defending usage restrictions, cabal pricing, or the publishing industry at large. I'll pre-empt that: they're not the same, Stone. They're not even close to the same. They have nothing to do with each other. I don't act the way I do because some publisher or store owner told me to do it that way -- I do because it's morally right. The positions you advocate are not. Let's leave it at that.
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Old 04-06-2011, 05:22 PM   #11
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Amazon has the reputation of perfection. In people's minds they offer to American customers every book in print in the country in pristine condition, at prices lower than anyone else offers. Their shipping is excellent and free with orders of $25.

Bookstores cannot top perfection. If the customer wants the attributes of Amazon, the bookstore cannot compete. The bookstore must offer things that Amazon doesn't offer at all. It's difficult for me to think of many such things (immediate gratification and hands on browsing are two that come to mind) because what Amazon offers is what I want.

I feel that this discussion is not limited to books. I think that we are seeing the internet boosting mail order at the expense of b&m stores. I can foresee many b&m's closing because they offer what can easily be purchased by mail order at a lower price.
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Old 04-06-2011, 05:32 PM   #12
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For me, nothing beats a real bookstore for finding new titles. Amazon's site comes close but doesn't really match it yet.

And I'm buying more in the B&Ms now. I use to buy a lot of physical books, then got my reader and started buying ebooks. But the industry has convinced me they don't want me buying ebooks. The higher prices, DRM and license vs own have made me drop ebooks and go back to physical books. But I don't read the physical books as it is now easy to "rip" them to ebooks yourself, just like CDs and your mp3 player. 15-30 mins later I can have my new book on my reader.

So now for me at least, I'm finding myself "browsing" at Amazon but, since they've raised their mass market paperback prices to full SRP in so many cases, I then buy at the B&Ms where it is turning out to be cheaper. Saving money and fewer restrictions appeals to me as a buyer.
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Old 04-06-2011, 05:40 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GA Russell View Post
I can foresee many b&m's closing because they offer what can easily be purchased by mail order at a lower price.
Basically, the same thing that happened when big-box "destination" stores lured consumer money away from smaller, more local stores is now happening in turn to those big-box stores. If you go far enough back, operating a shop was a part-time occupation for a craftsman, and those tiny shops were gradually replaced by small shops, etc. What we think of as "normal" (as in "omg they're replacing what has Always Been That Way) depends on where and when we grew up and what we saw around us as children. A lot of people want to pick some date in the past and say it should be that way because that's "normal" to them.

I remember when we didn't have ten kinds of ripe tomatoes in the grocery store when snow was on the ground. How many people want to give up their supermarket for a little store that could be mislaid somewhere in the produce section? Not many, I would suspect.

On the plus side, the barriers to entry are a lot lower for online businesses than they are for brick-and-mortar stores. So there's that.
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Old 04-06-2011, 05:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Anyway, discuss ( hoping to keep the discussion insult-and DRM-debate free).
Well, that didn't last too long.

Quote:
I'm sure, Stonetools being who and what he is, him starting this thread was somehow a setup for a post defending usage restrictions, cabal pricing, or the publishing industry at large. I'll pre-empt that: they're not the same, Stone. They're not even close to the same. They have nothing to do with each other. I don't act the way I do because some publisher or store owner told me to do it that way -- I do because it's morally right. The positions you advocate are not. Let's leave it at that.
Thanks for pissing in the swimming pool. I'll be the bigger man and let it pass.
I'm thinking that there are several categories of books that work better as pbooks:

*children's books
*photography books
*art books
*crafts books
*how-to manuals
*oversize books


Can you build a viable bookstore model around just these books? Anybody in the business can chime in here.
There was also talk on the Shatzkin thread of making the bookstore a kind of community center. In the Washington DC area, the Politics and Prose Bookstore thrives as a kind of political discussion center. Hands on and high touch may be the salvation of some. I think , though that "only a remnant will be saved".
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Old 04-06-2011, 06:03 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stonetools View Post
A person came in, read many recommendation tags, and talked to a bookseller for a while to get further recommendations. Nothing surprising there. Happens every day. That is why people come here. But she was writing down the titles, not picking up the books. At one point, she made reference to her Kindle and it became clear that she was making a list to order from amazon.com as ebooks.
I don't get why someone would do that. "The internet" is going to have a lot more recommendations than some small shop, and you're more likely to find someone with similar if not the same tastes in fiction so their recommendations are more likely to be worth a gamble.

One of the reasons I stopped going in new book shops years ago was because they never had what I was looking for, and that was long before they were all full of Katy Price type books.
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