I adore bookstores, and I'm sure almost all booklovers do. But we all know they are facing tough times. What can bookstores do to survive? I can’t imagine a world without them, but it’s clear that most traditional bookstores are searching for ways to stay in business with the rise of ereaders and the ease of ordering books on the internet. It’s been fascinating for me to check out various independent bookstores and their websites to see how some have adapted. Some are really community centers, those with the space to allow groups to meet and talk books or listen to music and poetry readings. That’s a good thing, because I’m sure once people are in the store, it’s hard to walk away without a purchase. I love meeting my critique group at a bookstore, because what better place can someone go to be inspired to write?
I know space is a limitation in many bookstores. If they use some of the room for people to meet, that's less room for books. I have not yet used an Expresso Book Machine, but I'm excited about this idea. It is a print-on-demand contraption that can print a 200-page paperback book or less in just a few minutes. They have full color covers and black and white interiors. Right now they are only in a few bookstores in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Here's a picture of one at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington: http://villagebooks.com/espresso-book-machine-print-demand
No matter what, I’ll continue to do much of my shopping at bookstores instead of ordering online, but what will draw other people in, those more casual readers? All of us traditionalists say we love the feel of a real book, but we are fast becoming the minority. Our family has two ereaders and we all read books on them even though it's not my first choice, but it is very convenient for traveling.
Some physical bookstores do sell ebooks though Google, and I hope more follow. A customer with a google account and an ereader device that reads epub versions (not Kindles) of books can purchase the book through the bookstore website or by simply linking the bookstore to their google account. This gives the bookstore a percentage of the sale. The book can then be downloaded to a computer and transferred to the ereader by a usb cable, or if you have an ereader with access to the internet, it can be downloaded right to it. Here's link to explain this process: http://www.yourbooksforless.com/gbook/help/ibreader
Even with ereaders, I still go to bookstores so I can browse. I want to look for new books I haven’t heard about, and find out enough about them so that I can decide if I want to buy them. Again, space limitations are a problem with this. Bookstores want to sell books, so it is hard for them to stock a huge range of books.Some of you will cringe at this next idea, so I apologize in advance. Should bookstores become more high tech? What about display walls with computer screens that show book covers you can touch to get more information, like the back cover blurb, a read-inside and the book trailer. Reviews don’t influence my particular buys, but if people are interested in those, they could be available as well. Essentially it would be like the Amazon model, but in a store atmosphere. We all know Amazon is very successful with their model, so how can it be adapted to the physical bookstore? Physical inventory would be cut down, so more books could be shown, including those of newer authors who might not get a place in the bookstores of today.
It might help with grouping books of a similar type as well. For example, I’d love to see children’s books grouped more by type of book rather than just alphabetical by author’s last name. I have a daughter who loves animal stories, so it would be convenient to see a section of middle grade books about animals. You could browse historical books, adventure books, school settings, and on and on. With computer screens , books could be in more than one category too. Once you found a book you liked, you could download it right there. Somehow it seems easier to browse when you see the larger images in front of you, rather than trying to get around on a small home computer screen.
A high tech bookstore would of course be very expensive to configure, but we can dream, can’t we? So I’d love to hear comments from others about why they go to bookstores and what they would like to see in the bookstore of the future.