Books: Shopping versus Buying and the Closing of Borders
Posted July 26, 2011on:
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?
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.
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