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The Future of Bookshops

There's been a lot of death knells sounded for the bookshop. And a few of the big chains have been in strife - Borders, Angus and Robertson were the big news. But an interesting rumination on the future of bookshops from the Association of University Presses got me thinking about how they could thrive.

Rather than being defensive about online bookshops stealing business, the article suggests stealing clicks and mortar's ideas like showrooming. Bookshops are becoming the place where buyers encounter books but sneak home to buy them cheaply (or increasingly do it in store on their phones). Last Christmas in the US Amazon paid shoppers to report prices on their mobiles by promising discounts or cash then undercut physical bookstores on. There's no avoiding clicks and mortar in the physical world.

So the article suggests bookshops are evolving into a "book place" offering book rental, secondhand options or membership models. It might even be possible to get a quick (and cheap) reprint from an Espresso Book Machine. And because people want options, shouldn't there be a way for them to download a digital copy on their mobile? The multi-option pricetag is looks crowded but mimics the possibilities online.

The book place/showroom idea has begun in Australia. In the past I've written about bookshops becoming more like record stores with a focus on events and following National Record Store Day to appreciate their local retailer. The Australian Booksellers Association has been running an Australian National Bookshop Day since 2011 and it's a celebration of what's good about bookshops: culture, community and lazy browsing.

But the book as the showroom concept reckons that readers just want to browse and will purchase online, so why not give them that choice? Through the book shops like Melbourne's Readings, Tasmania's Fullers and Sydney's Gleebooks all retail e-books. And what's more they're cloud books so they're not locked into a device and can be browsed on the web. They're also downloadable and can be made into an an on iPhones...

I'll stop before this turns into a full-gushing spruik, but bookshops will give shoppers the option to download a book while they're still in store by putting it on their pricetag. Publisher Simon and Schuster has started using QR codes on the back of books which would be perfect for e-tailing in store. If bookshoppers are voting with their thumbs then why not make it easier for them to buy online AND instore?

Also watch Meanland's The Evolution of the Bookshop.


  1. That is a good idea, i would say as long as the ebooks are the same price as the ebooks elsewhere people will stay in store to buy. But i guess many bookstore want to remain bookstores, not e-book/book stores and that may cause hesitation in the crossover or 'add-on' of ebook versions. But i guess in the end as long as the customer is able to order the book in store (ebook or paper), it is the sale that counts, not the version in which the information was passed! Interesting future for booksellers! Which i am one...

  2. I like the idea that a bookshop could give you options about buying your book - maybe have it posted home as a hardcopy or downloaded to your device in store. Thanks for your comment, James. I think bookstores will continue to be exciting places and independent bookstores will always find their niche.


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