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Bookstores need a social life

January 25, 2011


The NYT recently published an article on how independent bookstores, that now account for 10% of book sales, are coping with the changing and challenging environment. Most of the sellers interviewed talked about embracing online with more seriousness, getting into social media and finding complimentary products to sell alongside books.

There seems to be one huge opportunity for bookstores that’s pretty much untapped- which involves creating a venue for social engagement. While Starbucks and other coffee houses- pretend to play this role, they don’t really do it, as you can tell by looking at the number of solo drinkers and individuals glued to their iPads or laptops- there’s very little social interaction happening.

What if bookstores stepped in and up?

They would probably say they already do this with author readings etc, but these are predictable and don’t truly offer opportunities for interaction.

Obviously having more social events around the author readings is a no brainer- get some drinks company sponsorship, serve some food and get people talking and interacting.

Museums have done a good job at creating social events in their spaces, bookstores could easily do the same.

How about creating a night of events at a number of independent book stores- a literary crawl, etc?

How about creating courses and classes with authors to help people learn together and work together to understand new ideas or even new ways to cook?

There’s enormous value in the power of a physical venue to bring people together, but if you don’t do anything with it and offer some value add, why are people going to shop there?

Independent booksellers should work with publishers to think much more imaginatively about events and turn dull author readings into real opportunities for social engagement and learning.

If they do this right, they could even charge for it and find a new revenue stream they so urgently need.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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