LexPower

Books: Shopping versus Buying and the Closing of Borders

Posted on: July 26, 2011

Bookstore Nook

The bookstore, such a wonderful place for browsing, perusing and discovering books you want to read and add to your personal library. Brick-and-mortar bookstores may be in trouble, due to declining sales, but think about this: What will happen to online and ebook sales when customers can no longer linger among stacks of books, thumbing through pages, flitting from book to book, each more inviting and enticing than the last? Are online sales driven in (perhaps large) part by our ability to walk into a real bookstore and sample the wares? (Click image for credit and source)

How many wonderful books have you stumbled upon while browsing in your favorite bookstore?

Books you decided you couldn’t live without.

Books you would never have found if you hadn’t been able to roam and wander and poke about among the overflowing tables, bins, stacks, bookcases and displays.

Books that attracted your attention because of their cover, or a chapter title, or a blurb on the inside jacket flap.

Look around the aisles and alcoves and cozy nooks of your local bookstore. The books stand there, waiting for you, promising knowledge, entertainment, connection, enlightenment, pleasure and joy. A book is a journey.

As you look around, how many people do you see reading? Moving from one volume to another? Pausing to lean over and pluck from the stacks a book that has caught their eye?

And how many people do you see actually buying a book?

Cozy Bookstore Corner with Chair

A cozy corner in a bookstore invites reading. How many new books have you discovered in bookstores? Do you buy your books in the store, or online? Do you think it is fair to use bookstores only to shop, but then buy the books you want online? (Click image for credit and source)

The Borders bookstore chain declared bankruptcy recently and is now selling off its assets. In another few months it will shutter its stores for good.

Where once communities had easy access to books and a destination in which to meet and connect over new ideas and literary finds, there will be only empty shelves and dust.

Another outpost of civilization will have gone dark.

Kindle Ebook Reader

Do you buy print books and ebooks on the web? Do you shop for your books on the web as well, or do you go to a bookstore? (Click image for credit and source)

One reason Borders is closing its doors is that apparently more people were shoppers than buyers.

In the many reports I’ve read about Borders’ bankruptcy, one feature really jumped out at me: many of the staff and analysts interviewed said that for some time they had noticed a new pattern taking shape in the book-selling business: people shopped the bookstores, found what they wanted to buy, and then went online to make their purchases.

A number of shoppers who were interviewed admitted they were guilty of “mooching” – browsing at their bookstore, but then buying online.

Borders is one casualty of that trend.

Some trade analysts have speculated that online and ebook sales might actually decrease as a result of physical bookstores closing. Their thinking is that as more and more brick-and-mortar bookstores go out of business, people will have no place to browse and pick up a book to explore it.

Hmm, does this book appeal to me? Do I need to buy this and read it? Oh … maybe that one instead.

Many industry observers have opined that bookstores are the vehicle of book discovery, and that without thousands of actual books all around them and knowledgeable, professional staff ready to offer help and suggestions, most consumers will remain unaware of what is available in the literary marketplace.

What will that do to online and ebook sales of books?

Is there some way to develop a hybrid store that combines physical books, print-on-demand machines, and the on-site ability to buy ebooks (with the bookstore getting a commission on the sale price)?

Could those hybrid stores also offer multimedia viewing kiosks for titles that are only in ebook format?

As the publishing and book-selling business continues to transform, new models are emerging for getting books in many formats into the hands of readers.

We’re approaching a critical juncture, in my opinion, and this important topic deserves some serious thinking and entrepreneurial inventiveness.

What are your ideas for the bookstores of the future?

Now it’s your turn: What do you think of consumers who shop bookstores, but buy online? Do you think brick-and-mortar bookstores will eventually disappear? Do you support your local independent and chain bookstores by actually purchasing books there? How do you feel about the closing of Borders? Join the conversation by leaving a comment – thanks!      Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

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4 Responses to "Books: Shopping versus Buying and the Closing of Borders"

I’m guilty of shopping in bookstores and then buying online. It’s the middle of an economic recession and I’m a broke grad student who happens to have an addiction to books. While I don’t think it’s fair to bookstores to do this, to me it’s the difference between buying one book or buying three used on Amazon for the same price (including shipping). Used bookstores are the only ones that can really compete in terms of price, and they are more fun because you can find wonderful out-of-print treasures.

I’m sad about Borders closing, but it’s made a lot of bad business decisions, so it wasn’t as if it was unexpected. While I mourn the loss of Borders, I was first among the vultures at the liquidation sales. 😛

Hi Grace — Thanks for stopping by. The points you make are all valid, and I think many people would empathize with your perspective. And yes, sadly, Borders did make some unfortunate business decisions that helped hasten its demise. It will be interesting to see how the publishing and book-selling industries adjust to all the ongoing changes in technology and the economy. I just hope that bookstores don’t disappear in the process!
Happy reading,
Beth

Our Borders in the UK must have closed over a year ago now, but I find it worrying that online sellers have managed to close down such a big chain.

Hi Siobhan — Thanks for visiting. That the market shake-out could put such a big chain out of business is really unsettling, isn’t it, even though Borders’ business decisions along the way contributed to its closing. I hope that independent bookstores and other chains will still prosper, and perhaps some hybrids will spring up with a new, workable business model.
Happy reading,
Beth

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