Monday, August 8, 2011

Independent bookstores find ways to compete in the digital age, but will it save them?

Yesterday I read an interesting article on JSOnline ("Independent bookstores find ways to compete in the digital age") describing some of the challenges of indie bookstores as well as the strategies they employ to overcome these challenges.

These strategies are mostly based on finding ways to offering "enough extra value and a sense of community." This is a very good strategy, which is utilizing the indies' best strengths, but the question to be made is - will this be enough? My answer is - probably not.

The reason is that even though "book club meetings, appearances by bestselling authors, discounted books for students" are all good ideas and provide customers with benefits they're not substantial enough for most readers to outweigh the easiness of ordering book online or the better price they'll probably get on an online store. And we haven't mention the purchase of e-books, where there isn't much incentive for readers to go online to their favorite indie and purchase an ebook there.

In any event, readers need more incentives. It might be not fair to demand it from indie bookstores or even from Barnes & Noble, but this is the reality and we need to face it.

Just read this part out of the article:

"I'm a book lover," Thiel said, adding that the Borders closings saddened her. She travels to Milwaukee often, she said, and had shopped at the Borders store on Brown Deer Road.

If brick-and-mortar bookstores no longer existed, she said, "you no longer can browse the bookstore shelves and find that hidden gem. You can't do that online." Yet Thiel buys books from Amazon when the online seller offers a percentage discount and she also buys e-books for her iPad.

So the bottom line is that price and convenience win almost every time or enough to keep too many readers at home buying their books online. If independent bookstores want to win this war they need to find a way to offer more convenience and even more important - better prices. The later can come for example from collaborations with other local businesses that can provide discounts that customers will appreciate and take into consideration when deciding if they want to make the trip to their nearest indie bookstore.

You can find more resources on the future of bookstores on our website at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Plant a tree for every book you read!