*Disclaimer: I work in a bookstore (at least until next Monday) and in a library, so I just might have a bit of a bias on this topic.  That being said…I don’t care.  Everyone has an opinion on this issue and everyone has a reason (a bias) for that opinion.*
*Disclaimer x2: There have been hundreds of blog posts written about bookstores and their place in an increasingly digital world.  This article is more about my opinion than cold, hard facts and numbers.  If you agree or disagree with me, comment.  This is a discussion that could go on and on forever and we’ll still have as many opinions as there are people who care.*

 

It seems like everyone and their grandmother is writing/discussing the fate of the bookstore now.  Ever since Borders stores started shutting down, some people declared the “End of the Bookstore.”  That’s just ludicrous.  Bookstores aren’t going anywhere.  Sure, some are being forced to shut down.  Independent bookstores are quickly becoming a rarity.  But, like every other business in the world, the stores that manage to adjust to new technology and manage to hold on through the economic hard times will be rewarded at the end of the day.  For example, the store I work for is formatted very differently now than it was when I started there five years ago.  Unfortunately, the store had to shrink to occupy just one floor of the re-modeled 19th-century barn it’s housed in.  But that has made room for a ministry-based thrift store to move in upstairs. So, yes the shrinking was painful.  The music and teen books took up a huge part of the 2nd floor.  Those were my sections and you can bet it hurt to see them narrowed down to just a few shelves and squeezed into the first floor with all of the other products.  I really liked having my own space, but giving it up streamlined the store, saved on the electric bills, and allowed a great store to have a space in Berks county.

When we moved everything, there were very few sections that didn’t shrink.  Bibles still occupy their entire wall, greeting cards still have the same amount of racks, and gifts still have the entire platform.  Actually, within the last year, the gift section expanded exponentially.  We now have the ability to personalize hundreds of items. A huge chunk of space is now devoted to a laser.  Yes, I said a laser.  As in a baby version of the Death Star’s planet-exploding weapon.  I still can’t believe someone let us have an actual laser in the store!  MWAHAHAHAHA BWAHAHAHA…Oh, sorry.  I forgot I had an audience.  *Ahem*  Anyway…Using the laser, we’ve opened up an entirely new market.  Being able to instantaneously offer a gift for any occasion (seriously, if you want to celebrate National Talk Like a Pirate Day, we can make you a pocket-knife or something with “Arrgh, Me Hearties!” engraved on it), takes us away from simply being another bookstore.

Bookstores need to adjust.  They need to find new niches to fill.  Let’s face it, shopping online is easier than ever.  We all do it for something.  Bookstores need to find ways to cut costs without cutting service.  Find a way to become unique.  Stand out.  Branch out.  The time for retreating into the shell is over.  There will be no “waiting out” the down times.

Later this month, I’ll post another reason bookstores are still relevant.

*What are your thoughts on the future of bookstores?  Do you have a local bookstore?  What do they do to stay relevant and unique?*

 

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Comments
  1. I can only think of three bookstores that I go to. Two of them serve coffee and sweets.
    One of them has a book club.
    I hope that bookstores and printed books stick around.
    Even though I have a kindle now and have downloaded some e-books, and even hope someday to e-publish my stories, I still prefer an actual book. Made of paper.
    Paper books don’t break when you drop them. Few people would steal them. They don’t need recharging.
    But I guess the word is the thing.
    E-books are the newest evolution of reading.
    But I’m willing to bet that 500 years from now, there will be no trace of all the e-books published today.
    The way technology is changing, that time period could be much shorter. because as each new tech ‘improvement’ comes along, the previous tech is obsolete, and everything on the previous tech must be copied on to the new tech. Conservators don’t always have the time, manpower or funding to do this. Things get lost.
    So I really hope that actual printed books and bookstores stick around.

    • missared says:

      I believe printed books will outlast e-books. Who knows what technology we’ll have in even 50 years? No matter what, the printed book isn’t going away. I, too, have a kindle and love using it for certain things, but nothing beats the feel and smell of well-crafted books.

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