What is the future of bookstores?

Every person who ever spent a happy few hours poring over promising titles, opening them up to sample the contents, and piling up new finds with a thrill of anticipation has probably looked with sadness at the bookstore landscape these past few years.  Up to 75% of independent bookstores have closed up shop, and now even major retailers are following suit.  Are bookstores going the way of the wagon wheel?  In our increasingly digital age, is there still a bricks-and-mortar place for books?

We think there is.

Online retailers are definitely able to deliver a highly efficient book shopping experience.  But despite their efforts, they haven't been able to recreate the delightful feeling of finding a book you didn't know you were looking for.  Of picking up a prospect and settling into a comfortable chair to test drive the first chapter. Of getting personal recommendations based on what you're looking for (not necessarily what you've gotten in the past).  Of hearing the creator of a favorite book reading their own words in their own voice and explaining their creative process.  Online retailers deliver books.  But physical bookstores deliver the love of books.  We think that passion is worth honoring and preserving.

The Kepler's 2020 team aims to build a completely new business model for independent bookstores-- starting with Kepler's.  Over the next few months we will be fleshing out our vision of a community-owned retail operation working alongside a community-focused nonprofit that will bring an even deeper roster of events, talks, and gatherings to the mid-Peninsula region.  We will be keeping you updated here on our blog as well as through our Facebook page and Twitter feed.  We hope that you'll follow along and share your thoughts and feelings as we undertake this important journey.
1/30/2012 11:08:23 pm

Sounds similar to some ideas I had a while back, after pondering for months. Posted under "blog" page on my website (above), but repeated here in case it helps expand your own plan. Good luck!

Bookstore of the Future?

I have a vision for a new kind of bookstore. They have a few real books up front for visual appeal, and a knowledgeable sales staff able to give recommendations. Coffee and snacks are available, like so many go for these days. But there are no shelves full of expensive stock waiting to move. Instead, the place is filled with a variety of booths and little tables and comfortable chairs, and at each station is a data screen and keyboard. Users can browse for whatever they want, with images and sample text for books, magazines, or even music or movies. If they want something, they select it and pay right there via credit/debit card.

If they've ordered an e-reading something, they download it right there, or assign it to their account so they can download later at their convenience. If they wanted something to hold in their hands, the back of the store has a pair of computer-driven Print-On-Demand (POD) stations, and from stored files, the book they've ordered is printed, the cover printed, the whole thing put together, and the package deal delivered (either to the station, with a potentially expensive delivery system, or to a pick-up station near the front of the store, and the ordering station just spits out a receipt for it). The back of the store could even have a CD recording station and shoot out whatever music you purchased the same way. And a DVD station? Again, no expensive stock pre-manufactured and sitting around.

Choices for buyers would be endless, material need never go out of print, and the overhead for the store owner would be minimal after initial set-up. No labor to stock shelves or return things, just keep the machines in the back room in good shape. So, which one of you is independently wealthy, and wants to give it a shot?

Check out http://www.literarypowerhouse.com/ and select Forums, then Print on Demand (under Printing) for follow-up thoughts. Cya!

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