Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the Publishing Industry Part Two: The Future of Bookstores

So bookstores have been dealt a pretty harsh blow. Borders went under, and lots of other brick and mortar stores have either followed suit or are swirling the drain. Amazon continues to sell more and more of the books people are reading, and epublishing has cut out the bookstores from the process entirely.

As I see it, there are a few options for the bookstores to follow in the coming days. I'm going to try and lay it out as clearly as I can and hopefully I will not attract anyone's ire. Here goes nothing...

Option One: The Borders. This option involves more or less doubling down and continuing to try and keep the business going as usual. Ignoring the changes going on in the electronic market, the bookstore tries to squeeze more cash out of the writers and publishers supplying it with material. As time goes on and profits remain dismal, the store tries last minute attempts to adapt, perhaps even throwing grand sales in a grasping try to catch up to where their competitors already are. They end up going the way of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Borders, closing their doors in defeat as the market leaves them behind.

Option Two: The Hybrid. This option relies on diversifying the product the store sells. Barnes and Noble seems to have relied on this one extensively, developing not only its hard copy books, but also music, board games and the Nook. That last one was probably the more important one, because it helped put a hand in the territory that Amazon's Kindle had occuped alone for so long. As a result, the bookstore continues to make enough profits in order to survive, but not much else will change in its relationships with traditional publishers and authors. The only real difference is that in addition to the product coming from self-published authors will be lined up alongside traditional authors, in the electronic half at least. Self-published authors may still get exluded from hard copy bookshelves though, so no real change there.

Option Three: The Comic Book Store. Rather than continuing as a hardline corporate institution, the bookstore starts to rely on local and cultural appeal to continue functioning. They feature hard copies not only from traditional authors, but also local epublished authors as well to appeal to local audiences. Book signings, book readings, tables for writing groups or book clubs, and other add ons might draw more interest to the physical building. Online, the bookstore forms a strong relationship with print on demand companies as well as the usual publishers, so that they can get at least a small amount of profit through that source. They might even communicate directly with self-published authors to get signed copies of books in their stores like collector's items. All in all, the bookstore becomes more of a cultural icon, a gathering place for people who enjoy books, than a commercialized business venture.

So those are the three options that I see availble. There are probably more, but these seem to be more likely than the rest. Obviously, any of these changes are going to effect how publishers and writers run their side of the business, so that will be the purpose of the next post. See you then!

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