|That Newsweek cover.|
But you know what? Getting a Kindle made me realize how much we need bookshops.
Yes the buying process is a doddle. But I only had to walk into my local Waterstones on Islington High Street to realize that shopping on a Kindle is a limited experience.
As a children's author, I've found myself working with children's bookshops - and in the process I've discovered that a bookstore is not just bricks and mortar with IKEA shelving. It's an engine delivering the right books to the right people. I haven't got the time to extoll all the virtues of children's booksellers so may I invite you to read this article from the Bookseller on the best of the best children's bookshops (but only after you've finished reading this blog).
IN HOUSE ADVERT (TEE HEE)Heads up! From tomorrow, watch out for our Christmas offering ... 12 days of treats for you
From 11 December 2012.
Anyway, getting a Kindle made me realize that an e-reader isn't a bookshop. The joy of book-buying (my bookbuying at least) is that wonderful spur of the ooooh, I'd like to read that moment.
Sure, Amazon suggests 'If you like this, you will like this', but honestly, walk into a bookshop and you realize what a limited palette Amazon is offering you. It's an algorithm. It's not what you need to stumble upon something magic.
I may be too geeky to resist a digital future, but I love books too much to allow bookshops to disappear from the face of the earth. My new Kindle had me scribbling down ideas for a blog post on how to re-invent the bookshop for the digital era. But I didn't really have the courage to post my thoughts - I mean, what do I know? I'm no retail expert.
Interestingly, indy publisher Foyles and the industry magazine The Bookseller have teamed up to 'reimagine the bookshop'. You can read the article here.
|Foyles calls on the crowd to reimagine a future |
for the bookshop. Photo: Sarah McIntyre
In a nod to 'crowdsourcing' - the Foyles/Bookseller alliance is seeking input from both industry experts and customers on how to redesign the new Foyles flagship:
(We) need practical solutions to real-world problems: and this is what we'll achieve, in what is essentially a trade-wide initiative to re-invent and re-invigorate the high street bookshop, using this iconic London shop as the template. Philip Jones, Editor of The Bookseller
How cool is that? I would have put my name forward but I kind of heard of it too late and I hear they are inundated with people wanting to be part of the re-invention workshop event in February.
But for what it's worth - here are those thoughts from my notebook - I'm no expert and some of these probably sound ridiculous ... but that's okay. Ridiculous is always a good place to start.
1. Learn from Amazon?When Amazon realized that delivery charges created reluctant buyers, they delivered for free. And Amazon is selling Kindles at cost, knowing that it can make its money back in selling content. By giving the reader a venue, they created the need to buy. The browsing space is just the beginning for a reader.
Customers are reluctant to come to a bricks and mortar shop because they're so used to internet convenience and price. How can booksellers make it easy on a reader? find a point of convenience that would justify a price? Amazon's strategy is to take the hit of free delivery to maximise sales. Can publishers and bookshops sacrifice something, give something extra for free?
2. Sell DigitalThe truth is I think my own print book buying is going to shrink dramatically, even though I'm an avid reader. I want the bookshop experience without having to march out laden with heavy bags. There's more than just the Kindle now. Ipads, Nooks, Kobos, smartphones. Waterstones are selling Kindles alongside books. But are they selling ebooks? Perhaps it's already in the mix - although I can't see how Waterstones can make money selling books for the Kindle in-shop given Amazon's dictat on pricing.
I imagine we're getting closer to the sales of over-the-counter ebooks and apps. Which means bookshops will have to invent an inhouse digital browsing experience that beats browsing at home. The Amazon browsing experience doesn't serve me nice surprises - perhaps bookshops can figure out a way to do that.
3. Learn from Tesco Express?My shopping habits have changed. I used to do massive shops, driving every week to a supermarket with a huge car park. But now I find it simpler to grab a shopping bag and walk to the nearest express supermarket when the thought occurs to me. It's quicker, smaller, not such a big song and dance. Maybe my attention span has shrunk like everyone else's in this digital world. I don't have the patience to invest big chunks of my time. My impulse shopping seems to happen online. It's so easy to click and buy that weird little lamp that turns out to be half the size and double the brightness.
Palatial bookstores had a place in the Old World where information was not on a superhighway. Perhaps the new bookstore should be more of an express shop, a small curated space targeted at opportunity shoppers. I might pop into the cookbook kiosk in the Nag's Head Shopping Centre to search the screen for recipes using Hungarian sausages. Pick the cookbook, zap it into my phone and off I go. Or I might use the e-Vending Machine at Heathrow to download a guidebook to Tanzania.
Web designers like me often talk about discoverability. How can I design a website that will be discovered in the big soup of websites on the internet? Books have the same problem. There are so many, how can you discover the one book you would like to read? Perhaps smaller, specialist outlets will do the trick? Is small more discoverable?
4. Cater to the Culture of Free.It's one of the byproducts of the Internet. This expectation that most digital things are free because they're ... well, digital.
Publishers and bookseller should view this as the opportunity - the culture of free is the crooked finger inviting the reader into the store. Exclusive! A free download of short stories for ever copy of *Famous Author*'s book! Free access to playlist of music from *Famous Musician's* biography with every copy of book! And so on.
5. Reputation Matters.Everybody's publishing. Which means there's a lot of rubbish out there. Publishers and booksellers must realize that they have reputations to parlay in this game and not be drawn into the free for all of disposable publishing. People don't like reading crap. They still rely on the Publisher/Bookseller to filter out all the dross. So it's important for the industry to maintain the quality of its offerings.
6. Sell the culture.Working with children's booksellers, I'm full of admiration. Not only are they immersed in the literature they sell, they understand literacy and everything that goes with it - the keystages, the phonics, the reading schemes, everything. Looking at the imaginative festivals and events they create, it feels like they are not just retailers but even organizers. It's an example to the rest of the bookselling world.
That's it. That's what I've been scribbling in my notebook and I apologize in advance if they seem ignorant and totally uninformed. They're just the thoughts of someone who has discovered that the Kindle for all its joys, could never replace a bookshop.
Saving our literary heritage? There's no app for that.