Last week, we talked about how The Big Six is Dead. So what now? The future seems uncertain for many in the industry. Those who insist on clinging to outdated ways are bound to fall into anachronism. As I like to say, either we are architects of change or artifacts of change.
The only real hope of survival for New York publishing is the bookstore. If there is any hope to breathe life back into big publishing, it will rest with the bookstore. (The Big 6 will never rule like they used to, but they need not go extinct, either.)
Yet, indies have struggled competing against the mega-store B&N. Barnes & Noble has had its own share of woes. Lots of massive stores=too much overhead to be competitive. The 90s were all about excess. Giant stores, giant discounts. In this new world? Giant problem.
What is the answer?
In the future? To quote Seth Godin, “Small is the new big.” Let me explain…
Yes, But Mine Already Has Sparkles
Technology is quickly reaching an asymptote. What is an asymptote? It is a really fancy word you can throw in randomly to impress your friends. Impressed you, didn’t it? Oh, you wanted the definition! Okay, from Wikipedia:
In analytic geometry, an asymptote (/?æs?mpto?t/) of a curve is a line such that the distance between the curve and the line approaches zero as they tend to infinity.
WTH? you might be asking. Give me a moment.
Basically, fifteen years ago when cell phones were the size of your head, could only call local numbers, but each phone call cost $30 if one exceeded three and a half minutes, let’s just say that the cell phone had A LOT of room for improvement.
Only a handful of wealthy techies used the cell phone. They were for executives and they were barely useful.
Over the past two decades, cell phones have become smaller, thinner, prettier. Phones that once could only make calls evolved. By the mid-2000s, cell phones could take pictures and store music, but we still needed a small business loan to pay our phone bill. But then cell phones and cell phone service got leaner, meaner, faster, cheaper, better…and even came with sparkles.
Can’t beat sparkles with a stick.
What are you going to offer me? MORE sparkles. Nah. I’m good.
What About These Days?
Nowadays, cell phones are affordable for everyone. They are no longer a luxury item among the wealthy or the technophiles. Cell phones are as integrated into our lives as indoor plumbing.
And, they aren’t going to change like they used to.
Don’t get me wrong, I know we have many more advances in technology to come, but when it comes to the stuff us regular people are using? Technology is approaching an asymptote, meaning that sure it can improve, but with each improvement moving incrementally smaller toward an infinite curve.
It means the changes now aren’t as impressive and don’t move the market the way they used to.
Think of your iPod. When the first mobile music players could only hold TWENTY songs, it was worth running out and paying a small fortune for the one that held FIFTY songs, or A HUNDRED, or even FIVE HUNDRED. But are we going to drop everything to upgrade the iPod that holds a thousand songs for one that can hold five thousand?
Nah. We’re good. Thanks for asking.
This is what the publishing industry is failing to understand. Not only are they stuck in the paper paradigm, but they aren’t—in my humble opinion—fairly appreciating the technology paradigm. The e-reader can only get so good. I had a first generation Nook and I use it to read far more than my new iPad.
Why does this affect big publishing? The technology doesn’t really matter after a certain point. CONTENT DOES. This is why NY should have done everything humanly possible to control as much content as they could. If they would have considered my WANA plan that I offered them a year and a half ago, they might have dominated all of paper AND digital.
Oh well. I tried.
The funny thing is that New York is still courting the ever-elusive “book lover” instead of realizing that technology is creating more book lovers than ever before in human history and whomever is poised to keep the public satiated is going to cash out BIG.
Also, the “book-lovers” that NY really should be going after, rarely venture into libraries or bookstores, they are a new breed with different habits. But, we’ll get back to that in a second.
The Birth of the Digital Age Reader
See, NY believed that the e-book would be like the audio-book, but here is the problem. They failed to appreciate the Diffusion of Innovations Curve. Why am I bringing this up? Well, it explains where we will find the Digital Age Reader.
Man, I am totally geeking you guys out!
Basically when any new technology comes along, it progresses along a fairly predictable curve. The Innovators—those people like me who bought the very first digital camera even though we had to promise a kidney to pay for it—are the first.
We are the geeks and we are the ones who buy all kinds of gadgets FIRST. Then there are the Early Adopters–the friends of the geeks who will either wait for a sale or wait for a cheaper Gen 2. Then there is the Early Majority, the Late Majority and the Laggards (folks who just NOW got a cell phone or joined Facebook).
So Why Didn’t E-Books Go the Way of Audio Books?
It had to do with the nature of the product and the problem it solved. It was a niche product and always would be. Generally speaking, people don’t have time to sit and listen to each other for ten seconds let alone listen to a book for ten hours.
People who travel long distances. Okay, well there is a small population of dedicated buyers—ME back when I was in sales and drove 1800 miles a week. Okay, well beyond the traveling salesman? The person traveling on vacation. Well, that’s 1-3 books a year. How often do you get a vacation?
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to go from listening to an e-book back to real life back to listening to a book (picture waiting in a doctor’s office). With an e-book? Smooooooth. A page here a page there. Book after book after book.
Yes, we are an increasingly ADD culture, but we are never so ADD that we can transition seamlessly from an audio book to real life and back again.
Not that talented.
Additionally, audiobooks are more cost prohibitive to make. We need to find someone who has a good voice and good sound equipment to read out book onto a file. E-books? Easy squeezy and getting easier and cheaper by the day.
Reading aloud for recording purposes? Probably the same level of hard regardless of technology.
So, as we see, the signs that audio would remain niche are clear. E-books? They are everywhere. Over the weekend I read two books from three devices. I read from my Nook while we drove so long as it was light, then my iPhone once I ran out of light, then my iPad when I ran out of juice for the iPhone.
Yes, I have a lot of gadgets.
The Big Leap
What publishing didn’t account for was that the e-reader would make the jump from the Innovators and Early Adopters to the fat part of the bell curve. Now my husband who would have never defined himself as a “reader” chews through a book a week on his Evo (or my iPad. ONE DAY I will get to use my own iPad for more than FIVE minutes! :P)
My prediction is that the e-reader will burn through the fat part of the bell curve in the next three years, five tops. Paper is just a bad investment in a world of $5 gas prices. Also, paper is a bad bet in a world that is about to have INSATIABLE demand for content.
Readers want to finish a book and buy another one INSTANTLY and AFFORDABLY. We don’t want to have to make a run to a store to buy a book. We want to hit a button and have it delivered in seconds from outer space.
By failing to appreciate the progress along the curve, NY is hunting for readers in the wrong spot. Keep hunting this way and they will starve and die.
Small is the New Big–Targeting the Digital Age Reader
What cracks me up about New York is not only are they clinging to paper, but, from what I can see, they aren’t even properly understanding the Reader of the Digital Age. They are still “hunting” for readers the exact same way they always have. They are hunting for Old Paradigm Readers at the expense of the far more numerous Digital Age Readers.
Old Paradigm Readers, those who say, “You have my hardback when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” are good to have, but they are only a very small percentage of the population. They are not the readers who will bring publishing into a new Digital Renaissance.
That is the job of the Digital Age Reader.
Instead of Random House cutting loose salespeople with no commission to create “community support” with libraries (that are experiencing more cuts than ever) and indie bookstores (that are struggling in their own right), I might come up with a solution that benefits everyone.
I really dig win-win solutions.
Technology is approaching our fancy word of the day—an asymptote—so that is no longer a viable direction. So if we can’t focus on the technology, then do it the WANA way and focus on people. Think of their lives and their buying habits. Stop trying to make people come to YOU, and go TO THEM, instead.
Think Small to Think BIG
If it were me, and I were an independent bookstore, I would target Target. Target has this new campaign The Shops We Couldn’t Help But Fall In Love With where they bring small stores from other parts of the country to a national store.
The little guy gets help from the big guy. Little guy is happy because he gets to tap into new shoppers in other regions on an unprecedented scale. Shoppers are happy because we are tired of the Age of the Mega Store. We dig little guys.
Instead of trying to compete with Barnes & Noble mega stores, small is the new big.
Target is rumored to be partnering with Apple to sell iPads. What if you could walk out of Target with that iPad full of books promised to keep you up late at night reading? Heck Target stores already have Starbucks, why not add in a small bookstore?
Just situate a bookstore kiosk with touch-screen technology next to the Starbucks, but conveniently close to the display of e-readers. Purchase an e-book at Target and they will give you a gift card to download 5 FREE! titles at their bookstore kiosk.
Now Target doesn’t have to worry about show-rooming (people testing a device at Target but then buying it at home on-line and cheaper) because Target has now offered a value-added. Oh, and Random House can put those salespeople to good use selling the titles that should be featured in the Target special.
Book-sellers still get to do what they love–recommend AWESOME books—without the stuff they don’t love—tearing off the front covers of unsold paper books they are sending to an industrial shredder.
Additionally, book-sellers can now cut down on expensive overhead by partnering with a Target, Wal Mart, Costco, or Kroger Grocery Store (kind of like how Starbucks has a sized-down version for the grocery store near you).
Now, people who buy e-readers will be ten feet away from those most qualified to help them set up their e-reader and then fill the new device all their geeky friends finally talked them into. Booksellers get to sell books they love, writers sell more books and publishers solve the discoverability problem all of us are facing now that “everyone can be published.”
Wake Up! B&N!
Barnes and Noble needs to dump all those giant stores and create small airport-sized stores that will fit nicely inside a Best Buy. Still offer some paper titles, but now cater more to the digital market.
When a grandmother buys a Nook for her granddaughter who is graduating high school, she can stop by the B&N kiosk and have a bookseller help set up the new reader and load up the gift with books guaranteed to make an 18 year-old go SQUEEEEEE!!!!!
Barnes & Noble currently lets Nook owners read anything they want for FREE! for one hour if one is inside the store. Keep doing that at the small version!
With a small kiosk at a Target, think of my husband who really doesn’t want to hang out with me while I rail against the gods as I try on bathing suits. He could bring his e-reader to the Target Starbucks, find a comfy chair, and read something the B&N bookseller recommends. Then, he is likely to BUY it because it’s an impulse thing. Placing bookstores in this way would maximize the impulse buy.
The Digital Age Reader is a different creature. She barely has time to wear makeup, so she LOVES convenience. She LIKES being able to pick up fine wine at her grocery store. It saves gas, and this is really important in a time when it costs a house payment per month to keep gas in the cars.
Trust me, the Digital Age Reader loves it when she can save time and gas. She wants to shop for groceries, but she’d like to load up her e-reader too. In fact she probably already does. She is probably using the paper aisles at the grocery story to “showroom” what she’s going to download on her iPad. I say put those aisles filled with paperbacks to better use and make them a micro-bookstore.
If bookstores retooled in this fashion, everyone wins. The big store keeps people in there shopping longer. It can earn a share of the profits and also not have the hassle of restocking shelves of paper books.
Bookstores have less waste and much more flexibility. They can offer far more titles at Target, Costco, and Best Buy because they aren’t handcuffed by the paper paradigm. Writers win because more titles can be seen at these stores, which solves discoverability. Agents win because they can negotiate more titles into key retail spaces.
Also, get the bookstore, Starbucks and store working together in the WANA way, cross-promoting. Buy so many books at the Target B&N and you get a coupon for $10 off a purchase from Target. Buy your groceries at Target, and earn points you can cash in for FREE! ebooks at their B&N kiosk. Buy certain key titles and get a Free! frappucino.
Work together! We Are Not Alone!
The WANA way saves time, enhances the shopping experience and everybody wins. We buy more books and save more time to….read MORE BOOKS! Publishing doesn’t have to die. Neither does the bookstore. They only die when they fail to be creative…or to listen to others who can help them be creative. In the WANA World, everyone wins.
I love the future.
So what are your thoughts? Would you be more likely to shop at a Target store that had an indie book kiosk? An Amazon kiosk? Maybe a mini-B&N?
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Winner of last week 5 page critique–CJ Carver. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com.
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Thank you for this well thought out, well written comprehensive blog
That’s an interesting concept. Target has made some interesting business decisions that I really like. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bookstore inside Target but I don’t want my B&Ns to go away. I still visit mine once a week, but I do think it could be scaled down without having to shut them down.
I’d be curious as to see what happens over the next year or two.
I agree, Suzan. I worked at Borders before they died (sad, sad day) and I have believed for years that bookstores of the future would be large coffee shops with collector’s editions of books, a huge specialty toys area for kids, board games, and other random nicknacks. All this would be surrounding a large digital kiosk where you could plug in your device and do what most people came to the bookstore to do in the first place: ask for recommendations from someone who knows the market. Honestly? Your Target idea is even better. If the CEOs of Borders had been as smart as you, I might still be working there.
This form deleted my comment.
I enjoy your posts and agree with them completely.
However, you left out one important group of audio book users.
Those with medical conditions. It may be temporary such as eye surgery, or arm surgery, who cannot lift a book, or screen, or use their eye well.
It may be permanent, such as the mostly, or completely blind. While there are reader programs, they leave much to be desired.
I actually had them in the original version but the post was getting too long. That is true, but still a very niche market. Not something big enough to push the technology into the fat part of the bell curve where most of the purchasing power rests. Audio will still be here to serve that demographic, but that demographic doesn’t have enough market power to revive the entire industry. The Digital Age Reader, however, DOES have that kind of power.
Brilliant. You don’t have to look at advertising or business models or proper lighting in the aisles or the way things were or future projections to figure out how to “save” books, you look at people. What do we like? Where are we buying? What do we buy once and never touch again? We do love small stores, good service, easy access, and it makes less and less sense to make books out of trees.
I love paper books and always will, but check them out of the library, and return them to be used over and over, cherished by many like the valuable resources they are. My kindle is great for travel, and for sneaking in a page or two to relax or fill time while I’m waiting, and I love audio books for entertaining/distracting myself while cleaning house and ironing. Our local library is flourishing, packed every day, because it has evolved with the times, with up to date computer resources, free wireless, digital books to check out and fantastic community events.
You’re on the right track. New York will rue the day they didn’t listen.
I’ve been talking about this for two years now. Redbox-style booths I could load up my e-reader at. I love the convenience of being able to grab a DVD at McDonald’s (or Wal-Mart, or Target, or wherever else I have to run), and it makes sense to me to have the same thing for books. It splashes advertising up for customers in the same manner film ads are, gets a limited number of titles out there, and could really generate sales without wasting money on staff or floor space. I like bookstores, but I do NOT have time for them anymore between kids and work. It;s one of the reasons I love my e-reader.
This is a really great idea. It takes a while (how much coffee did you drink this morning, Kristen?!), but the concept of the B & N kiosks is really smart. Way to go, Kristen!
I never understood audiobooks! Now, ereaders? I LOVE my first gen Nook and (now) my simple touch nook. You’re right. People are happy to read a bit here and there.
There are some books that I really want to have in hardcopy, like the classics, but for the most part, I’m happy to have e-versions. I love browsing around a giant bookstore, but that certainly doesn’t translate to profit when I spend two hours and walk out with 3 books.
You present some creative ideas, Kristen. I’m one of those folks in your Late Majority group, but have friends who have to have the latest and greatest at the first possible moment. Not me. Despite the odd terms, I get what you’re saying about at some point even my friends won’t jump at the next latest and greatest because it’s not that much different.
I like the idea of everyone (the businesses) working together. That makes sense. No point reinventing the wheel.
My problem lies in what happens to the jobs of those folks currently producing paper books? And if you’re not producing as many, doesn’t that make the ones you do print cost more? Where do you find a happy medium? I love B & N and my Nook. Certainly as the population ages, the ease of reading with an e-reader will win more fans. But I don’t want “real” books to go away. Yes, we’ll save trees, but what about the folks making their living in lumber? What about those producing books. I see a lot of folks losing their jobs who may not be able to transition to the technology world.
Unless lead time is provided and lots of discussion (like this one) takes place, some people will be left in the dust. People who have families they support. If their jobs are going away, time needs to be invested in retraining.
The market isn’t responsible for subsidizing inefficient backwards industries. A lot of carriage makers went our of business with the invention of the automobile and its adoption into the mainstream. Paper will probably always be around to a certain extent, so some of the jobs are safe. But, while it is sad that jobs will be lost, there are also jobs to be gained. We need artists now more than ever. We need writers, designers, artists, and technical people to support them. Printers can now become formatters.
I am less saddened that some paper workers might have to make tissues instead of books and more excited that finally writers are in demand and can make an excellent living.
And frankly, they saw this coming and should have started repurposing and retraining four years ago.
Interesting. The first step is for publishers to break the mindset of distribution and think more in terms of sales.
The first step for indie bookstores is to drop the “I built it, now they will come” attitude. There’s too much of a kicked back, expecting people to walk in and buy attitude at many indies. As if the store itself were enough. They’ve got to go get people and bring them in. One place they can start is by appreciating genre authors who make up over 90% of fiction sales. I guarantee every indie store has a dozen authors within reasonable driving distance that would love to participate in an event. Yet the stores never reach out to their community.
The problem with the bookstores is they have never really had to think like salespeople. They have grown accustomed to consumers needing to come to them and that really stifled creativity and innovation. Instead of trying to beat the same market to death, it is a better plan to try and invent ways to create a new market.
Who cares if everyone in the United States only reads one book a year? How many BILLIONS of dollars in sales would that be? Get your digital books into Target, and people who never read might just download a book or two onto their iPhones while they wait in the line that’s 20 carts long.
They might download a quick kid’s book to entertain the 2 year old who is scope-locked on the candy. Impulse buys are the way of the future and the more places we position ourselves for the impulse purchase–without ANNOYING people—the better.
Thanks for the comment!
Your publishing solutions are so elegant, and simply make sense. I hope the powers-that-be are paying attention.
Target already sells books. What you must mean is for them to add the download area so that people could enjoy ebooks. I live in a place where BAM is quite strong. In fact, they just built a new, scaled down store nearby. I want them to stay, but I admit that I also can’t afford to spend full price for new hardbacks. So, I shop on Amazon most of the time. I sent your first blogs on the subject to the BAM family. I will do the same for this blog post in hopes that they can figure out something that will keep publishing viable while going with the proverbial flow into ebook selling. Thanks, Kristen.
I know Target sells books, but they are acting as the distributor. It’s inefficient. They have to give up valuable retail space for a good that, max, costs $27 per unit….when they COULD have iPads for $700 a unit. Do the math. Especially since people now want more and more people want e-books, so people are browsing Target, then downloading the e-book from Amazon. It’s going to become an increasing profit hemorrhage. Won’t take long for Target’s accountants to run the numbers and repurpose those aisles for e-book sales.
I think easy-squeezy is my new favorite word. 🙂
Time has proven that blending product consumables is a success. Coffee shops and book stores. Walmart and McDonalds. Best Buy and cell phone service providers. People have, and always will, be attracted to convenience.
What I don’t understand about the industry’s heel digging about ebooks is that yes, while paper sales drop, a whole new breed of readers are being reached–not just conversion readers, but NEW readers–the people who didn’t have the time to shop for books and lug them around are now uploading with a click. Selling more books, even at a lower ebook price, will always be better than selling less at a higher price.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Porter’s Writing On the Ether this week, but he brings up a snippet he came across recently–that ereaders may not be around 5 years from now because they will no longer be an efficient form of technology as our demand for content accessibility grows. Thoughts?
Keep doing what you’re doing, Kristen! We need leaders like you!
I saw that one, I think. Ereaders will definitely be around 5 years from now, because while technology may increase at the speed of an electron, people are still cloclwork, so to speak, and it takes us a little time to develop new habits.
Thing is, *dedicated* ereaders (meaning those linked to a single store) are going to have to also offer something else compelling, otherwise, you are once again limited to only one venue of shopping. I’m sure Target is getting a tech boost out of agreeing to sell iPads, but will the Apple store open its arms to Target shoppers? You can’t even buy kindle or nook editions on the ipad directly anymore can you?
And while Kristen’s idea of “loading up” is attractive to bridge the gap between physical consumption and digital consumption, two things. Ereaders are not going to get boots into stores. Half the point of an ereader is that you can read–and shop–anywhere there’s wifi.
The real attractiveness to the makers of dedicated ereaders is the continuing income stream from content sales. Thus far, the ereader cost is subsidized through content sales by driving the consumer towards a single purchase point…and we’re right back to the one-stop megastore shop. If you want to save a bookstore, you fill a niche unique to the bookstore. You figure out what it is that a bookstore can do that a Target or a web store can’t.
I think that the bookstore kiosk would help solve this problem. None of us want to go to a mega store, but we do like this feeling of shopping in a village square and that is what Target and my local Kroger are emulating. We don’t want bookstores to go away, yet we don’t want to subsidize dumb business for products we don’t want. The kiosk helps solve the discoverability issue.
Sure I can buy books from anywhere with Wi-Fi, but that isn’t the problem. It’s WHAT books to buy and the kiosk solves this problem. It places key sellers in strategically advantageous points. It allows booksellers to do what they are good at…sell books. This helps consumers (code for “readers”) decide what to buy among the sea of choices, which saves time and helps them find entertaining stuff to read so they aren’t loading their new e-reader they got for their birthday with junk.
I don’t believe bookstores are strong enough to survive on their own. Those days are over. In the Digital Age, they need to be part of a Best Buy, a Target or a Costco. It benefits the retailers to sell e-readers and then supply them with people who can set up the e-readers and fill them with books. Now that we aren’t wasting a crap load of money on shipping and production costs, the retailers can make a percentage of book sales, so they will want to sell more books.
Maybe for the tech geeks, but I think e-readers will be around. We are seeing a lot of blending of technology, but some technology is hard to improve. I think it is an asymptote. Instead of a stack of books on the nightstand, we will have our e-reader.
Hey, I am leading the WANA Love Revolution!
You definitely have a bead on where the tech age might go. And admittedly pulping and returns–shipping books from the US to NZ and BACK AGAIN just to shred them–is a little offensive when the planet is heating up from burning fuel. Your ideas are sound ones and should probably be put into practice. Maybe they even will be.
But what’s a paper lover to do? I don’t even have a cell phone. (True).
I commented on another post that much as slowfood is combating our need for speed, convenience, and low cost, perhaps slowreads might do a similar thing. Research is just beginning to be done on the effects of digital reading on cognition, retention, and memory. I personally want my children deeply and critically engaged with text. Perhaps more parents will join me–they’re starting to consider this question at my kids’ school.
Perhaps we will will read digitally for some things, but not for others?
Kristen, I don’t where you’re located, but if you ever want to do a She Said/She Said panel at the local bookstore where I host a writing series, I would love to have the booksellers hear your thoughts. We could even display your books 🙂
I think paper will always be around. I know that I buy twice as many books as I used to with e-books in play. I buy books on the e-reader because it forces me to keep reading (I get sidetracked with making notes). THEN i buy the paper copies to dog-ear, highlight and use as research. I think NY could be selling TWICE as many books if it would just realize not all books are ideal for paper.
What about all those fiction paper backs? I blow through them then they take up space or I have to go through the trouble to donate them or sell them. But I don’t want to get rid of them because then I might want to reread one.In digital, I can have all my favorite fiction FOREVER.
I don’t know about the cognition issue. I think that in the paper paradigm we had a much bigger problem—people not liking to read. More people reading books is always better, regardless of retention.
I am in Texas. I am happy to help any way I can, but according to most bookstores, I am not a “real” writer. I’ve approached B&N and indie stores to shelve my books, yet no one has so far…even as they continue to turn people away who come to their stores requesting my books. I kid you not, I can’t count the e-mails I’ve gotten from people who went into B&N trying to order a book and have it shipped to the store and B&N turned them away. I have never understood it. It would be an interesting experience to see my book in an actual store.
I will be in NYC for Thrillerfest. Aren’t you in that area if I recall correctly?
Yes, that is a good point about people not liking to read. For sure more are reading now.
The bookstore I work with would believe you are a Real Writer (whatever that may be). Despite difficulties in ordering on a case by case basis, they stock some indie gems I have discovered.
But if you will be at TFest, we can say hello there first! I’m part of the Debut Program, this will be my first time there, and now I’m even more excited.
I still buy a lot of paper books, esp by authors I know and read often. I tend to buy ebooks for my reader as non-fiction ones, so they are there forever and I can go into them often. Like your Social Media ebook.
I probably wouldn’t shop at such a store simply because I live in an area where we’d never have one. Which is why ONLINE content is totally king for me and part of why I was an early adopter after my crit partner talked me into it. I don’t live near any decent bookstores (other than the obscenely priced college BN here, which does not tend to carry what I want to read anyway and is not arranged in such a way that I can FIND anything I AM looking for), so being able to shop online at multiple retailers to fill up my Nook and get a book RIGHT NOW, as soon as I get through reading the recommendation from one of my online friends that made me go OOOOOO = priceless. And because I already live on a computer for my assorted evil day jobs, going into a store to buy is not in any way as convenient for me.
The words “Indie Book kiosk” gave me nightmares of hipsters trying to be cute while selling stuff. That said, I think I would seek out a Target in order to shop at such a kiosk.
An excellent example of thinking “outside of the box.” Very creative, and certainly, right for today’s fast paced society.
When is your appointment with the Target Board of Directors?
I think this would be a good idea to do. Would be good to have a small store just for those sort of books.
I reckon I will forward this blog to the CEO of B&N also. Don’t know what he’ll think. I wonder how these concepts would mesh with Microsoft buying the BN e-book dept. Maybe we should have kiosks in office depots, too… or anywhere that has Microsoft products. Maybe Microsoft can do some loss-leading to make the Nook more competitive with the Kindle.
It does seem that it would make sense to shelter B&N inside larger venues. Many Starbucks, for instance, are closing…. but not the ones in grocery stores… ya know? The shelter of shared overhead and combined convenience shopping may be the only thing that keeps B&N viable.
If they can also get the word out that the only way to save bookstores overall is to ditch the Kindle, buy the NOOK, and shop B&N… because Amazon will make bookstores vanish… then perhaps many book enthusiasts will vote with their dollars to keep the bookstore, by shopping B&N. We won’t do it just to save the bookstore, though, so the Nook has to be competitive or even become more desirable. B&N will continue to take a beating until they catch up/shift (should happen pretty soon now). This will also work if B&N strikes first, so that the kiosks that pop up are B&N, not Amazon. If I know that all the kiosks are B&N, then I know I need a Nook to enjoy them, and the Kindle will take a back seat and be left behind.
Someone gave me a Kindle last year… but I think I will buy a Nook instead. I want e-books, but I also want bookstores. My gosh, I love a good bookstore.
Me, too, Samuel. If you go activist on their behalf, drop me a line. I wonder if the indies will develop an e reader of their own? You could also check out http://takeyourchildtoabookstore.org–whether you have kids or not.
Amazing idea! Since Borders went out of business, we only have one little mom and pop bookstore that sells Christian books (mainly the bonnet and buggy variety). Having a mini-bookstore in Target, Walmart, or Costco would absolutely make my day! I’d be willing to go there to buy my Kindle books–I’m all for supporting authors and keeping bookstores around. It’s much easier to make decisions on books when I’m able to look at them physically and not just researching them online. 🙂
Would I shop at a B&N or Amazon book kiosk inside a Target? Probably not. If I want Book 2 in a series that I just this minute finished book 1 of, I do not want to have to put on pants to download it.
I have the whole internet. No shoes, no shirt, nobody knows. Heck, probably 3/4ths of the people on the internet aren’t wearing pants right this minute, and that’s just the business users.
My ereader already has a wifi, why do I need a kiosk? The only way I can think of this working out is if the store’s wifi has a conditional redirect to a branded affiliate link. I’d be okay with an exchange that basically says, “please feel free to mooch our wifi, but if you shop at these stores (amz, bn, smash, etc.) you’ll be redirected through our store’s affiliate link at no additional cost to you.” Then the store sees residuals, the online store (amz/bn/smash) sees numbers that tell them how many people shop through Target or wherever, and there are no additional steps to complicate/specialize things.
Now what I very much WOULD do is walk into a B&N or other bookstore and walk up to an Espresso Book Machine and print on demand a copy of an indie book I wanted in print for one reason or another. And I would pay them money for it.
Actually that POD idea was part of my last plan to save NY. One day they might listen, LOL. Athena, I think we as the Innovators and Early Adopters have to remember that the fat part of the bell curve shops very differently. For the tech savvy and the dedicated reader, we have different habits. This said, I don’t care for walking around Best Buy. My husband can spend two hours looking at some gadget when I had my mind made up in less than three minutes what I wanted. I think I would LOVE to let him get his geek on over in the 3-D TVs while I sat in a comfy chair at the B&N kiosk and browsed all the highlighted titles. I could read and look at books and everyone is happy.
It’s not just tech-savvy. My ten year old kid figures out how to shop for free or cheap ebooks of the stuff he wanted to read, and free or cheap apps of games he wanted to play in the first five minutes of getting his kindle fire. Lucky for us, we spent the night before christmas UN-hooking the credit card to the amazon account!
Also, Best Buy will not be around very much longer. They neglected to link their inventory systems with real-time updating to their online storefronts (the online store always says there’s something in stock at the store and they never find it once you’re there). My former-SAP consultant self says the SS Best Buy is a Failboat flailing in troubled waters. 😉
So much wisdom here, Kristen. My little beach town has two independent bookstores that are thriving. Only 60% of their income is from books, but they’re hanging in there because of customer loyalty and “outside the box” choices of inventory.
Anne, which beach town are you in? I love to find new bookstores!
Wow, what an amazing post. Thanks for putting things into perspective, Kristin. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Brilliant! This is the type of forward thinking that might just save us all!
Kristen, I love it!! The only problem I have is that the nearest Target is 2 hours away from my house 🙁 But, a kiosk like that at Walmat? Right next to their displays of e readers? That would be GREAT!!. When I first bought my gen1 Nook, I could only read the borring stuff that came with it. I didn’t have internet at home, so I registered it by calling my friend and having her get online and push all the right buttons! Then I drove across town to a WIFI hotspot at McDonalds in order to buy books! Let’s admit, a big screen to look for your first few books until you get used to how the fool thing works would be a wonderful thing. The sad part is I still get people looking at me like I am nuts when I say I carry 400+ books around with me. I finally overloaded the internal memory and had to add a micro SD card. Unfortunately, the CEO’s of big companies like B&N tend to be older, less ADD than those of us who grew up with technology changing faster than we can think. Some of these people probably remember when the Microwave was just a fad and would never be a cost effective aid for the full time house wife. We need more forward thinking peope in these positions.
So…go get a job there and wake them up!! Hee Hee!
I attended a great panel on this topic and have held its message close since–particularly in the face of industry naysayers… (Why are there so many? Fear? Ignorance? Money?)
Two indie bookstores opened in my neighborhood after Borders closed. And a small mystery boutique store in LA turned into three. I love shopping in “mom & pop” stores and online–namely Amazon. Indie book sellers are invaluable to authors, whereas Barnes & Noble started out with the aim of profit, using the grocery store as their model. These changes are happy news!
You have the best ideas, Kristen. I hope they’ll listen this time.
Kristen, you are always so absolutely entertainingly intelligent and dead-on… I absolutely enjoy you..
Awww, thanks Jane. I am happy to serve :D.
You are seriously brilliant. Someone needs to be paying attention 🙂
Your forward thinking gives me hope for the future. Being a creative thinker does not even begin to describe your gift.
You are very forward looking and I am impressed with your blog. I am a book lover and reader however now that I am retired, traveling more, and not always well;I find my Kindle to be my inseparable companion. But I still am a lover of the bookstore. My favorite is the William Faulkner book store in Pirates Alley, NO. I love the smell, the texture of the paper, turning the page and being able to hug an old friend. The truth is you have a vision that might just save all of our favorite bookstores.
Wouldn’t it be cool if they could have their own kiosk at a Target? Let people who aren’t in their area enjoy some of their wares? Food for thought. Thanks, I try. I love writers, books and readers so I work hard to find the best possible solutions to our biggest problems.
you are doing a great job
“I might come up with a solution that benefits everyone.”
Please don’t move my B&N into a Best Buy. *shivers* I’m on board with everything else.
Why? When my husband has to spend TWO HOURS looking at Televisions, I can look at books. Win-win :D.
No more televisions. Please. 😉
This is a great post! Something needs to be done, that’s for sure, because I don’t like the direction publishing is heading at the moment. I like browsing bookstores, or having someone to say to ‘I like this book, what can you recommend me?’ It’s too hard to find ‘new’ books on Amazon for example because there are so many titles – how to find what you like? How to find what is good? Your bookseller can help with that, and your suggestion may well just be a perfect compromise.
Oh I just love your thinkin’ lady! SO, after reading this post, I wanted to share an idea I had. You know, now that we have these e-readers, and the idea of there still being paper books and stores are becoming risky, I had an idea for bookstores. I was thinking that there should be plastic cards on an “e-reader” section that shows the book cover on one side and on the other side it shows what the book is about as well as an excerpt. Then, people with e-readers or nooks can scan the plastic book sheet and buy the book on their phone or nook. This would come in handy the most for books that are ONLY bought via e-reader (such as indie or self-pub books) and it’s a way of “advertising” the book. And maybe the book store that sells it gets commission or a percentage of sales. This merges the “e-reader” and showcases maybe the more obscure books and still keeps the store intact.
Well, whether that idea would work or not, I just love the idea of the publisher getting into the game and trying to find ways to keep the store, keep the paperback readers, AND keep the new generation readers.
Now you are thinking like a WANA ;).
Oh. Em. Gee. I LOVE this idea! I live in the suburbs and the lack of a really local bookshop irritates the … out of me. I will absolutely go to a bookshop to talk to people who love books about books. and I will buy books there. If I could buy ebooks there as well, I would probably buy twice as many books – because I love print, too. An airport-sized outlet where I could talk to a real bookseller, pick up the latest hardback or paperback for the peeps who don’t have readers and buy half-a-dozen books for me while I’m doing my grocery shopping? Heaven! This could work and save our precious indie bookshops. Dammit, I’d open one!
What about the cafe that sells print on demand books?
Already suggested that in an earlier blog , but you are correct. I think that is a great idea. Only paper for people who want it. Cuts down on waste and shipping costs.
Sorry I repeated. I wonder when someone will take advantage of such.
No need at all to be sorry. Just means that great minds think alike! They should totally listen to us :D.
No kidding LOL! They should listen to us.
Kristen…nothing short of brilliant. I can see this as the way of the future for sure.
Interesting post and concept. eReaders have evolved into something more. The first eReader was the Sony and its been around for years. My first eBook was published back in 2007 (2 years before the Kindle) and my fellow ePubbed authors were all raving about the Sony. It was a great little device. Still is. What really pushed eBooks was the Kindle, and not because it was a dedicated eReader (we already had one) but because of the Wispernet–instant access to many, many books. iPads and even the KindleFire and the new Nook Tablet are not dedicated eReaders, they are much much more and I think the iPad will soon replace laptops and mini-computers. I’ve even given a powerpoint presentation off of my iPad. Pretty cool.
I’ve always liked the idea of an Espresso Machine in the middle of my grocery store. We’ve been saying for years POD technology had the ability to change the face of publishing…but that was before the digital revolution.
I’m not sure how a kiosk for digital downloads would work. As a publisher my mind goes right to what would Target’s cut be? What would the authors cut be? If Target is “selling” the ebooks on any given platform then Target will be taking a percentage of that sale. This could get tricky with iPad since they don’t allow direct buy buttons in their apps so that would have to be a partnership with iBooks? So essentially would that limit the customers choice of where and what books they buy?
I do love the idea of working on ways to increase discoverability and I think going digital in stores is going to happen. One thing I already do is when I’m in a store that has books and I see one I want, I pull out my iPhone and either tell Siri to remind me later to find it online, or I go to Amazon and one-click buy the book. Then again, I do almost all my shopping on-line. Talk about convenience. I did almost all my Christmas shopping on line last year.
Oh wow, I laid out pretty much exactly this idea to my husband about a month ago. I keep wondering when someone who can make it happen will see the light.
The itunes cards available at the supermarket checkout are an even easier idea to copy. Why not cards that give you credit at an ebook store? Even better, an SD flash memory card loaded with, for example, all one author’s books, or a selection of, for example, young adult fantasy titles. If your ereader doesn’t have a card slot, you can plug the card into the card reader of your computer then drag the titles onto your ereader.
Amazon are selling their kindles in my local supermarket – smart cookies – so it’s just another step to offering the books for them there as well. They can still be attractively packaged to catch readers eyes. We’ll have designs for the bits of cardboard that hold the flash memory cards instead of book covers.It also allows people to give books as a gift that you can actually package and hand over.
I think coffee shops are a great target for this. We had Borders in Australia until the recent meltdown, and they had Gloria Jeans within them. Borders got loads of traffic because people LOVE the coffee/bookshop mix and the comfy seats everywhere to sit and read books. But the prices were astronomical. It wasn’t worth it to pay even if you didn’t want to be one of those people who shops in store then buys elsewhere online. But if there were big coffee shops out there with comfy couches and wifi, who gave you say 2 ebooks to sample per coffee you sat and ordered, or 3 books if you ordered a sandwich, AND they weren’t heaps snarky about how long you hung around, I would go there all the time! A limit on how long the book remains free would move along the slow pokes, and if you PURCHASED the book and another coffee you could stay longer. I like this idea alot 😛
This would be a nice win-win for me and my hubby. He often looks at work-out and bike stuff at Target while I want to linger in the books section. To be able to get more ebooks at a B&N (assuming they savvyed up and dropped ebook prices reasonably low all around, not just on indie titles), would be fantastic. Would save a 20 minutes trip to the actual B&N bookstore. However, something tells me those that run B&N and other bookstores don’t think this way — and certainly don’t approve of any downsizing-to-kiosks-providing-mostly-ebooks talk. That could just be me though.
Great plan! Sure a little useless for me, since I don’t live in the US and my e-reader is catching dust in some drawer.
What I usually miss with technology and digital shopping is the “stumbling upon” interesting things.
For example, I want to go clothes shopping and tried to look online for inspiration, completely useless because the online stores are set up as if you already know what you come for.
The same with books, I really don’t like shopping for them online on my computer or iPad, because I can never find anything that appeals, because I don’t really know where to search. In a bookstore I’ll just walk around, look around and then a title or cover catches my eye.
When a digital store can give that sense of shopping, that’s what I’m really waiting for.
Love your well thought out ideas for the publishing industry. Just wondering…can’t people purchase books directly on most modern e-reader devices? I have an old Sony reader, which was a pain because I had to purchase online on my computer, then sync it to the reader. But on the Kindle, can’t you purchase it directly from the device? That’s what I do with my iPad…purchase online from the iPad, then download directly. So I’m wondering what the purpose of the kiosks would be, if you don’t need a separate device to purchase and download the book.
Bookstores never have what I’m looking for, so while I miss wandering around the aisles and browsing books, if I’m looking for something in particular I head straight to Amazon. And even if I’m not sure what I want, and want suggestions, I head straight to Amazon. I find browsing there easy, but then I prefer to shop online than in person.
Everything is moving toward niching. I can see niche bookstores being useful for certain kinds of paper books. For example, I’ll read fiction on my iPad, but for business/marketing/reference books, I want them in paper. They’re so much more useful to me that way, as these are books that I’m constantly referring to. I can see this type of book continuing to be printed on paper. The publishing industry needs to decide which books are best on paper, which are best electronically, and produce them accordingly.
But for them to be successful, they need to start surveying readers, asking them what THEY want, rather than prescribing solutions that the publishers think are right. The market has changed, and it seems as though they aren’t paying attention to reality. They cannot go on thinking they are right and the market is wrong. They need to start asking consumers what it is they want.
It also needs to be easier for people to gift ebooks. There’s a book I want to get my mother, and she has a Nook. I just went on the Nook website the other day, and found out that I can’t purchase the book and have it delivered to her device. There’s no way for me to buy the book for her, without using her login. This is absurd, and they’re totally overlooking a huge market here. Whether it’s to add a certain amount of money to a person’s account as a gift, or to purchase a specific book, this needs to be available.
There are so many areas for improvement, and it will be interesting to see how this develops…and at which point the big publishers will become extinct, since they remain stuck in the stone age.
Interesting, but I don’t feel e-readers are yet near the asymptote. For me they simply haven’t yet come up with what I want. It needs to be lighter but with a bigger screen, have pictures and colour e-ink, and also get rid of that annoying flicker when the Kindle turns a page. And be cheaper! Also have a way to tell how far through the book you are, not having that would annoy me so much. If they could fix this, I’d want one, but until then I’ll make do with the library 🙂
What size screen would be good for you? I use the Kindle app on the iPad, so the screen is backlit (which some people dislike), is larger than the Kindle, and you can see how far you are along in the book at the bottom of the screen. But, of course, the iPad is probably the most expensive of all e-reader and tablet devices.
Yeah, I’m not sure about backlit. And I’m thinking A4 would be nice with pictures for textbooks, crafting books, art and travel books. All the books I love but can be too heavy for me 🙂
Yes, but those are very minor changes and I don’t know how much lighter you can get without it being problematic. My iPad weighs far less than a hardcover book. If you get too light then you might have issues with it being too easy to drop. This happened with cell phones. The manufacturers kept making them smaller and smaller and smaller until the dang things flew out of your hand every time you turned around. Color e-ink is a generation or two away and within 5 years e-readers will all be very affordable. The Nooks now are going for $70, which is not that terribly cost-prohibitive. Also, fairly soon, people will be able to pick up used e-readers for very inexpensive as well.
I think the next thing might be using that very thin flexible stuff as a screen, sort of like an e-scroll. That would be cool! And small is not good, but light is as I have arthritic hands so I hardly ever read hardcover books anyway! When they make it lighter than a small paperback I’ll be all over it 🙂
As always, a concept with so many possibilities; as always, your solid commitment to writers and readers shines through.
Terrific article, Kristen. I hope that some of the powers-that-be in the big publishing companies and the big bookstores take your suggestions to heart.
Everything you say just makes so much sense, Kristen. Love it!
Clever ideas. Magnificently expressed. And a great sense of humor. What more can one ask for? I’m a new follower but count on me being around for a very long time.
I’m so in love with books and reading that I would stop and browse ANYWHERE I saw something resembling a bookstore. But not those random shelves at the back by the CDs where it’s mostly celebrity biographies and romance books.
Long Live Wana. As always, very insightful.
Denver, Colorado’s premier independent bookstore, the Tattered Cover, has their own in-house Print On Demand shop, the Tattered Cover Press. Not only can the store cater to self-publishing authors’ desires for small runs of physical paper books, they can put those same authors on their shelves and even produce one-off physical paper copies from a large selection of back-catalog out-of-print books to fulfill customers’ requests.
What a fantastic idea, now that is adapting.
I was so sad when all of the Borders closed! A very insightful blog! Love it!
I think I’ve bought one book at retail price in the last 5 years. And yet my husband and I have more than 6 full-size bookcases full in our house, over 150 books in storage, plus I have more than 100 books loaded on my Kindle.
Because of our economic circumstances, buying books at full-price is just not possible. We get the majority of our books from McKay’s Used Bookstores in Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, and even then we rarely pay; we usually trade some of our books for credit to buy other books. When we need a specific title, though, we buy it used from Amazon or from the cheapest store on AllBookstores.com.
The last few books I bought for my husband came from The Dollar Tree (and he’s enjoyed all of them). I’ve also been known to buy off the dollar rack at BAM.
My Kindle books? Self-published books on sale (for free) or out-of-copyright books free from Google e-books.
When people consume a lot of books, those books need to be cheap. I’m not going to buy an e-book for $9.99 when I can get a used copy in print for $4. And I’m sure not going to pay $15.99 for a print copy.
That being said, I can still waste an hour wandering around a physical bookstore, just enjoying the power of all those possibilities and the scent of paper. But I’ll only buy something if it’s really cheap.
I LOVE this idea!!!!! They should not only listen to you but hire you. (you know, in all your spare time.)
Also, side note: I’m trying to get the word out to wordpress.com users to override the new comment feature which basically tricks people into receiving all of the follow-up comments. Im guessing few want all those emails. Since you have a large following of bloggers I thought you might want to know, plus help spread the word.
On Dashboard go to settings>discussion>then scroll down and uncheck the box that puts the new little box under the comment form of “notify me of follow up comments via email.” I love that they now have a “notify me of new posts via email box” but NOT the notify about new comments. It’s tedious for people to remember to uncheck that box every time they comment. Overriding this system just takes that box away so that nobody is accidentally spammed from our blogs.
Nina, THANK YOU so much for mentioning this obnoxious new WordPress irritation. My inbox is so flooded with comments from your blog and Kristen’s that I feared I could never comment on a popular blog again.
Now I see the little box, and I will never click “post comment” until I’ve unchecked that nasty thing. Why do they do this stuff? Blogger is just as bad. You can’t preview a comment any more without the words spilling out of the box and spreading across the page–totally unreadable.
Deliver us from “improvements” that do nothing but add to our stress levels!
Kristen, I love your ideas; they make so much sense. Just one comment, though, about audio books. Who reads them?How about the woman who loves to read but must also take care of a house, garden (maybe this year something will grow besides weeds), and family. It used to be I struggled with finding time to finish all the books I wanted … until I found audio books. Now all I have to do is strap on a CD player and lose myself in a story as I do all the mundane tasks of my life. If I need to listen for the phone or a child, I mist leave one of the ear buds out.
Also, with audio books now going digital all I need to do is pop an iPod into my pocket and I’m good to go. BTW, my local library is now offering FREE! digital audio downloaded of huge selection of books that will stay on your MP3 player-of-choice for 3 weeks, then magically disappear. No late fees, imagine that.
Keep up the good fight. If I knew anybody in publishing (at this point I still don’t) your blog would ne my first recommendation to him/her.
Brilliant blog post. I have no problem finding books to read for my Kindle. In fact, I am buying more books in few months now than in the previous year. But for the peeps on the other end of the adopter bell curve, having eBook kiosks at big chains would be a great solution.
Wow, your brain must run a mile-a-minute! You have done a great job of laying out options for publishers and book distributors that make sense and offer a win-win for companies and customers. I would LOVE to have a bookstore in my local Target. I have definitely thought that B&N needs to go with smaller spaces and offer more digital content.
I came up with a model where Authors would also buy in to a new style cafe that prints books on demand. If authors buy into the ownership, they would make money from both the cafe and writing.
Thanks for the great post! I just enjoying reading your post in my kindle (what?). I just read most of the time in my kindle compare to a physical book. Its comfortable to bring 3 ebooks (and some task) in my kindle. And even swapping for old ebook are in these days.
Your ideas are brilliant!
I think so. Just wish someone would listen, LOL.