Can hardbacks be saved?
Lately, the high-volume book stores like Barnes & Noble and the recently deceased Borders are becoming a thing of the past. With most companies bleeding sales month to month with no positive end in sight, the future of big chain book sellers is far from bright. Just recently, the Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble, Inc. resigned after the company reported an unexpectedly large loss the previous quarter. This warning flag is one of many for an industry that is seemingly stuck in the Bronze Age of book selling.
The key issue, as it has been made clear over the past few years, is that brick and mortar bookstores are following an archaic business model. Companies such as Amazon are taking in larger and larger audiences (and shares of profit along with it)while Barnes & Noble is stuck in the 50s with its large display of over-priced books that people can browse for free while grabbing their daily coffee.
Besides, when was the last time you were in a Barnes & Noble to browse books and not just to grab something from the Starbucks? Or the last time you saw a book’s price and weren’t sent into shock over the absurdly high price? Instead of adapting to the modern age of e-books and kindles, these stores have struggled to keep enough customers in the store long enough to purchase an item.
In a recent Bloomberg article on the subject, one proposed solution really caught my attention. The idea of a membership for bookstores like Barnes & Noble sounds ridiculous, but could finally bring about profits (something Barnes & Noble, Inc. has failed to achieve in quite some time).
The process would be much like buying a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club. You could enter the store and there would be ‘samples’ of books to try, download a few chapters to your eReader for free, maybe a free book of the month, and even a complimentary cafe for members.
For me, this idea might be so crazy that it works. It uses the advantages big book stores still have over the online retailers like Amazon. The main advantage is the atmosphere and experience of searching for a book and being surprised by what you stumble across; this is what sets Barnes & Noble apart.
No matter how often you go to Barnes & Noble or how much you buy, you always have a peaceful shopping experience. You just can’t get that buying experience by scrolling through Amazon or any website for that matter. Barnes & Noble needs to embrace this fact and use it to augment the future of their store and brand. Otherwise, they are headed the way of the dodo, or more recently, Borders Books.