March 18, 2011


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Are Bookstores Dead?

Yesterday I made my last trip to a Borders bookstore to try and capitalize on the 40% discounts on their remaining inventory. I walked out with four books under my arm and a thought crossed my mind: is this the last time I’ll ever step into a bookstore?

I used to be an avid book browser at Barnes and Noble and Borders. Loved to take an hour or so and look and see what I’d like to buy. Over time, my purchasing habits changed greatly. Instead of browsing in the store, I started browsing online. Some of it was because of time, some of it was because I could get access to a whole lot more information about a title through the web than I ever could at a store.

Eventually, I only went to a bookstore if it was an impulse buy and I just couldn’t wait for Amazon to ship the title to me. Oh the torture of the 3 – 5 day wait! Often they would be out of the title and offer to put it on order. Really? Isn’t that what Amazon is for?

Another sign that bookstores are in trouble: I was looking for a blu ray title. Stopped by Best Buy and noticed that they had the Social Network for $16.99. I almost bought it, but moved on as it wasn’t the title I was looking for(this was another one of my impulse buy adventures). I meandered over to Barnes and Noble and saw the exact same blu ray selling for $32.99. When I told the B&N employee that their title is almost double the price of a competitor, she said that they simply can’t compete with Best Buy on buying power, but that they are different because of their great service. I couldn’t tell if she was serious or kidding.

One thing I am certain about: Bookstores have got to adapt. Being a glorified warehouse with a corner coffee shop and a few movies/cd’s in the back just won’t cut it anymore. Ipads, eReaders and smart phones are changing the game as well.

What should they do? Change the shopping experience. Completely. Make the store a place to congregate. To interact. Find a way to offer something—a product, an experience, anything—you simply cannot get online. Make that the focus of the physical store. And build off of their online one. Unless they do that, they’ll go away completely.

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