Monday, March 26, 2012

The bookstore is dead. Long live the bookstore.

The fate of independent booksellers continues to weigh heavily on my mind. This article by Mike Shatzkin presents an interesting idea: what if bookstores offered a variation on the concept of "retail display allowance” in which a discount is offered for any placement in a display, not necessarily a favoured spot.

Shatzkin caught my eye because he rightly points to Codex Group data which underlines "the critical role bookstores play in consumer discovery of new books and authors." Codex Group representative Peter Hildick-Smith "demonstrates with data and logic that SEO and social media are totally inadequate substitutes. Hildick-Smith thinks a future without bookstores will be very different than the present. He makes the case that author brands established in the bookstore era will be largely unchallenged when the bookstore ladder gets pulled up and future authors can’t climb it. And he believes that publishers don’t appreciate that all measures, even desperate measures, are called for to preserve the brick store base as long as possible."

This is the greatest tragedy of the Nicholas Hoare phenomenon: the loss of that discovery of a new title or author that a reader might never have made his or her way towards had it not been spotted in Nicholas's stores. I can't say I agree with every business decision ever made by the stores, but I always applauded their ability to be a space for those "ladders" (the virtual kind... You already know what I thought about the physical kind!)

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