Thoughts on the future of bookstores. . .

Here’s my kind reminder, if there was ever a time to purchase books, it’s now. Do you like the convenience of being able to swing into any local bookstore, and finding the book(s) you’ve want to read? Sadly, the less foot traffic we make into brick and mortar bookstores, the harder it will be in the future.   Here’s a blog posting that really struck a chord with me today, by Liz Colville – Documenting the Fall of Borders  Through Its E-mail Newsletters

I admit, I’ve used like everyone else. Yet, I also make an effort to go into any bookstore locally when needing books too. In fact I combine these visits with my regular agency meetings (locally) and occasional research.

Everyone has been talking about the downfall of Borders. I had my own life (career-wise) with Borders too, during the early days (pre-internet taking over our lives). There are vivid memories of people browsing and purchasing books because they liked them, because the stories seemed interesting. The only mention of cost would come down to one’s preference or ability to afford the full cost of a hardcover or paperback book. It was that simple. Choose the book(s). Go to the counter. Pay for them.

There were no deep discounts. No coupons. No paid memberships with additional discounts.

It was a good time for publishing. It was a much better time for authors.

Several years ago, one of the big mistakes Borders made was implementing coupons, sometimes to the point where they would lose $$ on a book being sold vs. coming even on a transaction. It seemed that Borders hoped other books would be purchased, that people would linger longer in the bookstore.  This did not happen.

Instead the coupon would be used, with a store losing money on the books purchased, and the same person more than likely returning home to  purchase even more books online (that were also discounted).

Let’s be honest – how is this fair to writers? Most writers have to fit a 40-hr per week job into their writerly lives.   Let’s say you discover a new writer whose writing really rocks your world.  How is it fair to this talented author that his/her book is being sold at 50% cost at a bookstore?  Ultimately if everyone purchases a creative work by an author at a discount, the likelihood of the royalties being enough to sustain a full-time writing career are next to nil.

I’m not against discounts on books, but when readers become dependent on deep-discount coupons to purchase their books (online or via a bookstore coupon) – the lives of bookstores will be 110% affected.  So much that it will be harder to get readers to purchase books at the full price again,  due to this dependence on heavy discounts/coupons.  Sadly this can be the figurative straw that could break a bookstore’s back.  I’d like to not see that happen.

A seed worth planting:  ONE company who has yet to go the route of deep discounts and the “coupon trail” is Apple.  Look around you, there’s a large majority of readers who seem to own a Mac, iPhone, iTouch, iPad, and/or iPod.   We all paid for these items at full price without blinking.

Here’s my challenge:  Try to at least purchase 1 book/month at your local bookstore, and pay full price for it.  Just one, that’s all I’m asking here.  If everyone at least makes an effort to give additional business to our local bookstores, they’ll still be around 100 years from now.  Yes, I’m that optimistic.  🙂 

Personally, I would’ve never gotten where I am today without the benefit of working the frontlines of the bookstores. ( Heck I remember using a Microfiche to look up book titles during my early days.)  Not only have local bookstores helped develop strong readers, they’ve also  produced many writers, librarians, and people who work in today’s publishing industry.

I’ll see you at the bookstore…and soon I hope!

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stacey Graham, Red Sofa Literary. Red Sofa Literary said: Thoughts on the future of bookstores. . . […]

  2. Michelle on March 7, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I agree. I wrote a post about working in bookstores and how we need to support all of them. Keep the brick and mortars alive. Continue to buy the books you love at a place near you.

    Great post, Dawn.

  3. Phil Dwyer on March 21, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Great post, and a great challenge. Just wanted to let you know that I decided to do the same myself, with the addition of another caveat: let the book be by an author I’ve never read before. So far I’ve enjoyed David Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet and Twelve’s new book – The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, by Benjamin Hale. One unforeseen consequence is the number of conversations it has sparked with book shop staff and friends. I’m still buying the majority of my books at a discount, because I can’t afford to pay full price for every book I buy, but I’ve found that your challenge has enriched my reading, and my buying experience. Thank you.

    • redsofaliterary on March 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing this! That was what I hoped would happen with at least one person. Part of my old days at the bookstore was the many interesting conversations (and people) that came through daily. 🙂

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