In a fun article in Slate, Stephen Heyman tells a tale of hope. In an article entitled, Big-Box Bookstores Don’t Have to Die, he shares the story of how Waterstones, the largest bookstore chain in Britain, has turned things around. Hint: it’s the same way we have as indie authors.
Eliminate publisher control
And, give place to the needs of the actual users of a particular store. It’s surprising how badly traditional publishing is still hurting us. Their model worked very well from the 1930s to the end of the century. But things have radically changed. Duh!
What has almost died is the mass-market book, the cheap paperback, and book returns. I mean, what other retail store gets the opportunity to return anything they order if it does not sell? Printing is too expensive to support all of that now. Just like marketing has switched from mass marketing [sending a letter to everyone in the US, for example] to targeted marketing, selling books will be required to do the same. It happened to TV, to movies, to magazines, and now it’s happening to books.
We have no idea how bookstores will look in twenty years.
But the likelihood is that they will still be around in some form. Barnes & Noble still doesn’t get it. I don’t want to browse for books in a gift shop. Like most of us, I want to be enveloped in new books from sources of which I was unaware. The brick and mortar bookstore was the best for this. How many times did I spend hours or minutes relaxing by browsing for new authors, and new titles?
I suspect, the bookstore chain which can add the indie author will win out in the long run. It’s all about discovery. That’s hard enough online. It takes an exceptional bookstore who can anticipate which authors and books will sell. But it can be done by gifted, experienced book buyers.