Okay, so there a few reasons our traditional (and independent) type bookstores are dying out. I still think there is and will be a need for a physical space to sell books. This space may still be called a bookstore. Yet, I think I’d rather have bookstores closer aligned to publishers or printers.
Print on Demand
I really have little information about publishers, but wouldn’t it be great if they could work more with a Print-on-demand model? The Wikipedia article on POD mentions that small publishers are already doing that. Publishers can control how many copies of a book is printed and reprint on demand. One fellow on the panel (mentioned in the previous post on bookstores) that indeed the quality of POD books is actually pretty decent. Following the publisher-as-bookseller model, this could mean titles can have a longer lifespan. Having POD in store means that books never have to go out of print, and that a customer has a greater chance to buy a title that might not otherwise be in stock. There are bookstores, chain and independent, that already have Espresso Book machines. Oscar’s Art Books, a specialized bookstore in Vancouver has a machine because they don’t want to “go the way of the dodo” like many other bookstores.
Growing a Niche
In that session at Con*Cept, there was talk of how local niche bookstores in Montreal have closed (e.g. Nebula Books). Yet, I think there is still room for niche bookstores. Obviously, Oscar’s Art Books mentioned above has found a niche and has managed to keep itself going despite a nearby chain store.The difficulty of sustaining a niche bookstore is maintaining a customer base. Currently, focussing on people living in the vicinity who may be interested in that niche isn’t enough. A niche bookstore has to reach out to all readers, regardless of location. Of course this means that they would be competing with other niche bookstores but that’s when the business savvy comes in. Previously I mentioned I usually buy books by authors I’ve had some sort of connection with; it’s the same for bookstores. Does your store have readings? Does your store interact on Twitter? Does it blog? How do you reach out to your customers who are both local and not? A niche bookstore has to offer all the services a chain does but they don’t have to feel like a big chain. That’s the advantage – booksellers knowing their product and patrons better than anyone else.
Another reason I think publishers should turn into the booksellers, is the e-book market. I just think it’d be a lot easier to buy an e-book direct from a publisher, than all the extra steps of getting one through a store. I don’t think I have ever bought an e-book (I’ve only downloaded public domain or free ones) but I did buy an e-audiobook once and that I did through the publisher’s website. Again, at that panel during the Science-Fiction Convention, someone in the audience (I think) brought up the point that because we do like to browse books, she could envision a time when a person would just go into a store with their e-reader, look at book covers and download whatever they wanted. There are people already who go to the big bookstores that have wifi and then purchase the titles they want online instead of in the store. If publishers become the e-book sellers themselves, they have greater control of licensing and access issues, they can decide title by title if they want the level of DRM, if any. I’ve also heard one author write that she pre-sells her books as e-books so as to gauge interest and to get a feel of how many print copies she’ll need.
I think my thoughts are all over the place on this which is why I’m writing it out here, so all of you can have your say or comment or write your own posts. There’s so much being written on the topic of books and bookstores. It would be sad to see all physical bookstores go since they are a great place for reading events, but I do certainly see that change is possible.