How Can Bookstores Survive?

24 Jan


Carmen Amato asked me the other day what I think, how bookstores could survive. And yes, we all want them to survive, both, independent local bookstore and even big chains. It’s not an easy task for brick&mortar booksellers. However, it’s the growing popularity of the “shopping local” movement, in which booksellers were at the forefront.” And further: “many consumers across the country find the grassroots accessibility of indies appealing”, wrote The Atlantic.
My “wishlist” and ideas how bookstores could strive:

1. e-Book Order Feature
Since years I was wondering why bookstores did not offer their customers devices where they could order the e-book version if they liked what they found in print in the store. Or at least “bundle” print books with an e-book version. Amazon now tries to partner with bookstores (which might meet some resistance…) to offer exactly what I had envisioned.

2. Carrying Author-Published Books
Trade-published books do not automatically mean quality. There are so many wonderful books from independent authors out there – and it would be a smart move to offer them as well. Readers don’t care who publishes a book, they just want a good read.

3. Order Directly from Author-Publishers
This way, bookstores could circum-navigate the wholesalers and increase their profit quite a bit! As these connections are mostly with local authors, the bookstores could play the “local” aspect into their promotions to the communities around. Most people like to “know” the author who’s books they buy.

4. Offer Book-Layout, Cover-Image and Editing
Why not band together with professionals and offer authors these services to make sure the books’ content and layout gets a great start and is prepared for the Espresso Book Machine. Many authors would be happy to get technical help in the book production and publishing process.

5. Set up an Espresso Book Machine
Many authors (professional and hobbyists) struggle to create very small numbers of print books, e.g. for book signings, Goodreads Giveaways or as gifts. Bookstores would be the ideal place to offer this inventive book printing device. Motto: “Get your book printed while having your Java”, which brings me to the next suggestion:

Most chain stores, such as B&N or Chapters have a Starbucks in a designated area, but very few bookstores offer this pleasure. Independent bookstores need to give customers more reasons to come in!

7. More Space and PR for Author Readings
Supporting events such as readings and book signings should be a priority of bookstores – and organizing these professionally, including PR, should be a no-brain-er. After all it is a promotion for the store as well.

8. Providing Space for Author Meetings
Charging a small fee (as libraries do) and renting meeting space for authors or even organize a writers conference could be profitable and at the same time a good PR for bookstores if they have the space.

What is YOUR view, how do you think, bookstores can survive and even strive?

Check out what writers and author-publishers suggested on Carmen Amato’s website.
Who else wrote about survival of bookstores?
Can traditional bookstores survive the digital marketplace?
Barnes & Noble’s troubles don’t show why bookstores are doomed.
The Man Who Took on Amazon and Saved a Bookstore
How ‘Indie’ Bookstores Survived (and Thrived)






Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Audio Books, Book Sales, Bookstores


Tags: , , , , , , ,

8 responses to “How Can Bookstores Survive?

  1. Candace Habte

    January 24, 2014 at 3:15 am

    These are all good tips, especially being more open to indie authors (seems to be a lot of resistance there even with the smaller shops). There’s a bookstore that I like in DC called Kramer’s (even though they wouldn’t carry my self published book unfortunately). The cool thing about Kramer’s though is that it stays open late (like 3am or later) serves coffee, and pretty good food…and even alcohol. It’s a meeting place, and books are everywhere. It’s a good spot to be period, but it’s still a bookstore. More bookstores need this versatility.

  2. guyportman

    January 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    These are great ideas. Being in areas with low rents, considerable amounts of passersby and selling postcards might be others.

  3. Q. M. Sidd

    January 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm


  4. D.G.Kaye

    January 25, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Love this!

  5. winbdwin

    January 25, 2014 at 2:22 am

    Some points of article is very excellent,

  6. Angela Trigg (@angelatrigg)

    January 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I work at a local indie bookstore and while some of your ideas would be great, some are just out of our price range. An expresso book machine, yep, that would be awesome, BUT you know how expensive those things are? Unless the price has gone down since the last time I saw it, which was a couple of years ago, I admit. Can’t sell coffee as that’s an added expense for liability insurance, plus all employees also have to get food handler permits and there’s an extra cost to the city for each employee for that, plus we just don’t have an extra space for it. And we don’t have the space for author events. Wish we did. I’d love to have classes and meetings. The few times we’ve had author events squeezed in, the attendance has been embarrassing. Also, most self-pub authors that approach us have no idea that there needs to be a wholesale price for their books–they want us to pay the full cover price. The few that get it, and we buy, then sit on the shelf even though we have nice signs that say “local author”, but even if they sold, it’s not a higher profit like you say, because it’s the same discount (40%) as we’d get from a distributor but without the ability to do returns. I agree though with the spirit of the post, indies need to adapt and stay relevant, but there’s more to it and not as easy as it sounds. We try by knowing each customer and their preferences and seek out used stock to accommodate them with and greet them when they come in by name and a chance to say, hey, we got in some xyz the other day. Kobo also allows brick and mortar stores to sell ebooks and I’ve been trying to get my boss to do it but he says he’s heard from other stores it doesn’t produce much revenue, but I keep trying. I think it’s all about how we do it and maybe those stores aren’t implementing it well. If your local indie is doing some of these, support those events! And if you’re a local author and an indie is carrying your book, promote it! Tell your friends they can get your book there–I think authors believe it will just magically get sold. We will reorder from an author if it sells, but it’s so rare. Not sure why, though just thinking now, it could be because customers can get their ‘local’ fix by buying some well-known authors, as we have a good number (Fannie Flagg, Winstom Groom of Forrest Gump fame, and more). What I think local bookstores offer (if they sell used) is retro retail–the ability to browse and find little gems that they wouldn’t find at B&N or Amazon. I love it every time a customer says “I’ve been looking for this edition for 15 years!” Our little store has now become a destination stop for road trippers going through our area, which is awesome! Yay TripAdvisor!

    • ebooksinternational

      January 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      Hi Angela,
      thanks a lot for all your comments. I try my best to encourage authors to learn
      all about the publishing business, and how print books are to be sold.
      Tell your boss it is not about big business with Kobo, but to offer one more reason
      for customers to stop by.
      Seems there should be a travel guide to awesome bookstores out there : )
      Please let us know where your bookstore is located. If between Florida and Maine
      I will visit.

      Cheers, Doris


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