I am excited by the news that there is a resurgence in physical bookstores.
Locally, the Dallas Morning News announced in an article last week that a new bookstore, Interabang Books, would open in May, 2017, at Preston and Royal in Dallas, one of the busiest intersections in the city. The article states that the store will be a “5,000-square-foot site that will carry 12,000 titles and focus on fiction, children’s books and creative nonfiction. It will have space for up to 100 people for book signings, and a children’s stage for story times.” You can read the entire article here:
This is a national trend. This article summarizes results from seven different stores in cities where traditional bookstores are thriving. This is the citation for that article:
Even the large chain, Barnes & Noble, has seen gains in physical, on-site purchases. This article, published in Fortune.com, sites a three-month period in 2016 when online sales dropped more than 12%, but in-store sales rose 1.3%. You can read more here:
Of course, these bookstores look nothing like the “bookstores” of ten or more years ago. They contain coffee, food, music, gifts, games, and other items that attract and keep shoppers interested. The result is that the bookstores continue to be an important part of an intellectual, but also, casual shopping community.
I don’t understand the enthusiasm that some people have for technology to replace these traditional stores. There are plenty of people who do not want to read a book on a tablet, laptop, or phone. I don’t understand why we don’t view these as alternative sources, rather than as replacements. After all, if the purpose of all these sites is to increase reading, thus producing a more intellectual and informed community, why wouldn’t we want to have multiple ways to put content in everyone’s hands?
It is remarkable and rare that an author’s first book, on its first week out, hits the # 1 spot on the fiction best-seller lists, such as the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon.com, and the Wall Street Journal. Yet, that is where The Girl on The Train (New York: Riverhead Books, 2015) by Paula Hawkins finds itself.
Who is Paula Hawkins? We don’t know much about her. First, be sure you understand this is not the Republican senator with the same name. Hawkins lives in London, and worked as a journalist for fifteen years before writing her first fictional book. She was born and raised in Zimbabwe. In 1989, she moved to London and has stayed there ever since.
What is the book about? Here is what her Facebook page says about it:
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.
You can read a review of the book from the New York Times by clicking here. It has already been translated and published in numerous languages. The book has been optioned for film by Dreamworks. Note: It is easy to get confused. You will find this same title used on several previous books and movies.
To say that it is “selling like hotcakes” would be accurate. The book is receiving massive publicity in papers and talk shows throughout the country.
You should get it, read it, and react to it, before you hear all about it from someone.
I was surprised today (2/28/2012) when I received an e-Mail with Barnes & Noble’s “top picks of this week’s new books.”
The list does not contain a category for “business,” nor do I see a single business book listed.
What’s wrong with this picture? Is this just a bad week for them in the eyes of Barnes & Noble?
Like our other bloggers, I have a great appetite for business books. They have become a passion, and I eagerly anticipate the publication of the best-selling list every Saturday morning the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition.
I think that not including a single business title in the “top picks” of the week is quite strange. This is especially true when lists of top non-fiction books regularly include a number of best-selling business books.
Are you surprised that the list features “cookbooks” but no business books?
How do you interpret this omission? Does it say more about Barnes & Noble, or about the status of business books?
Let me hear from you! Let’s talk about this really soon.
Here is the list that they distributed, with categories in blue:
Hot New Fiction
Trail of the Spellmans
Cinnamon Roll Murder
Ideas and Advice for You
The Power of Habit
The Emotional Life of Your Brain
Let It Go
China’s Wings Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight
Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith
New Biography & Memoir
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East
The First Lady of Fleet Street
Burn Down the Ground
The Latest Romance
The Darkest Seduction
New for Kids
Penny and Her Song
The Kane Chronicles Survival Guide
New for Teens
New in Cookbooks
Alain Ducasse Nature
Joy the Baker Cookbook
News item: Borders to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
I have shopped at bookstores since I was… well, since well before I was old enough to drive. I had my favorite bookstore in Beaumont, TX, in the Los Angeles area, and in Dallas. (My favorite, of all time, was Acres of Books in Long Beach, a used bookstore that was, truly, acres of books. Not attractive, dusty, “old,” wonderful! It is now closed, as I read on Wikipedia).
When we moved to Dallas in 1987, I shopped at Taylor’s Bookstore. A locally owned “small chain,” it’s location in the outer parking lot of NorthPark Center was ideal. I could always park right in front, and get lost for a few hours.
The big national chain stores put Taylors out of business, and I switched to Borders. For some reason, I always liked Borders better than Barnes & Noble – no, I don’t know why. Just the feel of the store.
But I helped put Borders out of business. Because, for the last few years, I have spent far more at Amazon.com that I do at the physical stores. So, it’s partly my fault – but it is still sad.
The bookseller’s finances crumbled amid declining interest in bricks-and-mortar booksellers, a broad cultural trend for which it had no answers. The company suffered a series of management gaffes, piled up unsustainable debts and failed to cultivate a meaningful presence on the Internet or in increasingly popular digital e-readers.
The article seems to imply that Borders’ problems are significantly Borders’ fault. But, let’s say that Barnes & Noble is better managed, better run, with its Nook, and on-line business, developed in a pretty timely manner. Here’s the thing: I’m loyal to Amazon on-line, and have never once even checked Barnes & Noble’s site.
And, it really doesn’t matter. Here’s the future, from later in the article:
Online shopping and the advent of e-readers, with their promise of any book, any time, anywhere, and cheaper pricing, have shoppers abandoning Borders and Barnes & Nobles bookstores as they did music stores a decade ago.
“I think that there will be a 50 percent reduction in bricks-and-mortar shelf space for books within five years and 90 percent within 10 years,” says Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical Co., a New York consulting firm. “Bookstores are going away.”
“Bookstores are going away.” It’s a sad day.
And for this blog, which focuses on business issues and ideas and business books, here’s the question – are you in a business that can shift and change and adapt with the times, or are your days numbered also?
In my first “adult/out of college” job, c 1972, I served as a Youth Minister in Beaumont, Texas. (My wife once killed a mosquito so big that she mailed the dead mosquito to her mother). I quickly discovered a little bookstore. Owned by a woman whose name I have forgotten. I would go in weekly – sometimes more than that. Always spent more than I had budgeted to spend on books. I spent hours in that store. It was definitely locally owned… and the owner was my friend, confidante, counselor. I’ve never hung out at bars, but that book store owner was the best bar tender I ever met…
First, my disclaimer: I have never shopped at Legacy Boos: An Independent Bookstore in Plano. It was just too far from my neck of the woods – in fact, I never even saw it.
But, when I first moved to Dallas in the late 1980’s, I shopped at Taylor’s books. It was in the far north parking lot of Northpark Mall, just across from the two movie screens where I watched JFK, and many other films. Now, both are gone – Taylor’s, and the movie theater.
This could be just another “big box puts local business out of business” story. Legacy was, after all, a “local” store in the era of Barnes & Noble and Borders. And, they built and opened in 2008, just about the worst possible date to start anything, because of the economic conditions
But, it’s not that simple.
Barnes and Noble is also not doing well, and has just been put on the sales block. The final chapter? The world’s best-known bookstore puts itself up for sale:
Browse a while, sip a coffee, buy the shop
IT COULD be the title of an offbeat thriller: “Billionaire Party Boy Versus The Ted Turner of Books”. On August 3rd the board of Barnes & Noble decided to “evaluate strategic alternatives”. In other words, the world’s leading bookstore is for sale. The coming battle for control will involve colourful combatants. It will also have serious implications for the future of publishing.
And Borders has not been healthy for quite some time.
(ON the Barnes & Noble news, Border’s stock was up 3 per cent Wednesday as part of the speculative frenzy – to $1.36. Its penny-stock status reflects its leverage and perceived also-ran status in e-books)
Borders Group Inc. president and Thomas Nelson Publishers chief publishing officer Tami Heim to lead a new brand development and consulting division.
In a scenario that feels like a repeat of the music industry’s woes, digital consumption of books has eroded the traditional distribution channels and revenue streams the traditional publishing industry is built on. It also has created rights disputes for titles written before the advent of e-books and led to declining royalties since e-books are sold cheaper than physical copies, which also has led authors to seek higher royalties on digital sales.
So, this is a story about a lot of things. It is a story of the difficulty of a small, locally owned business trying to survive, and failing, against the behemoths. It is a story about the difficulty of small businesses in general. (Remember, politicians like to tell us that the future of job growth is in small business. Not as easy as it sounds!) And, of course, it is a story about the health of the publishing industry, especially the publishing of physical books.
And I’ll just skip the part about the disappearance of Record/Music stores. Digital, and Barnes & Noble and Borders, pretty much did them in…
And this is the story of the big box stores against the on-line competitors.
And, it is the story of lost jobs, and a lack of new jobs.
Just yesterday, I stopped in at a TCBY. (It’s across the street from where I get my hair cut). Do you remember those? Used to be, it felt like they were on every other corner. Now, they are rare indeed – I only know of one in Dallas that ‘s left, and the woman who served me my White Chocolate Mousse said that she used to make the frozen cakes for all the TCBY shops. Now, that business is basically non-existent.
Back to the book store. Bob Morris e-mailed me on the news of Legacy’s closing with this line:
Tragic. I was in the store recently. Purchased several books for grandchildren. And immediately thought about the film You’ve Got Mail.
Where will people browse for books in the future? It is nice to read a table of contents and first pages on the Amazon site, but it is not the same as sitting with a stack of books and browsing though the pages.
Where will people work when more and more jobs are lost?
I’m feeling unusually and unexpectedly sad at this news – for a book store I never even visited.
Before we post foreclosure signs outside of book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Half-Price Books, and others, because everyone purchases books and downloads them on devices such as Kindle, let’s talk about what these retailers really are.
Yes, they sell books. But, any cursory glance at a visit to these stores will tell you that customers are there for many reasons. They are there for an experience. Last night, at a prominent store of this type, I walked in and found it packed. Patrons filled cafe tables, drinking, eating and chatting. People were on sofas chatting. As I kept walking, I found people listening to CD’s in the music section, conducting business near the magazine section, browsing through gift items near the cash registers, listening to stories in the children’s section, and of course, perusing book aisles.
Any trip to these stores will confirm the notion that these are places that offer experiences, not sell books. Predictions were wrong that Amazon.com would put these stores out of business. It didn’t happen. Predictions will be wrong that devices such as Kindle will do the same.
The reason is very simple. These stores have amply diversified beyond any one product type or line. There is much more to them than books. In fact, they are much less of “bookstores” than Starbucks is a “coffee shop.” As Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argued in The Experience Economy, they have evolved into places where people can go for a fulfilling experience.
While sales have slipped, a CNN Money report indicates that they have done so less than expected, and in fact, no more so than other types of retailers who have felt the brunt of a shaky economy.
Don’t think for a minute that people do not like to get out and relish in experiences. If that is the case, then we would have lost every retail mall once online shopping became available. There are plenty of people who will download books to devices such as Kindle, and among them, many who will curl up in their recliner and read their books that way. But, there are also many of them who will do that and also find their way into retail outlets that stock and sell books.
Perhaps if a retailer only sells books, it will be in trouble. But, not in any more trouble than any other kind of retailer who puts total emphasis upon one product type. That is not what these retailers are doing. They sell books, but offer experiences. And that is why an electronic device will not shut them down.
Do you disagree? Let’s talk about it.