Bookstores are doomed, they say. They are disappearing at an alarming rate, they say. All over the world, big book seller chains are in trouble.
They blame Amazon.
And it’s true that a lot of book buying has shifted online. Ebooks are only part of that phenomenon, even physical books are bought online more and more.
It makes sense to me. It’s so much easier to find books online, to find recommendations – and last but not least, ebooks take almost no time for delivery. It’s also a rather comfortable way of getting new reading fodder.
In fact, I have to admit that I have stayed away from big bookstores in the last years or so. I have walked through some small ones and left without buying. These days, I feel overwhelmed by looking at thousands of books that don’t interest me while those fields that do interest me are not stocked. So I go online.
And yet, for some reason, I kept thinking about a weird question:
What would a bookstore have to look like so I would enjoy going there?
Here are some of my answers.
1. Computers to browse for books instead of shelves and shelves of them.
The bookstore wouldn’t have to display tens of thousands of books. Instead, it could be made to look inviting, calming and friendly – possibly displaying famous book covers or just beautiful pictures. It might be furnished in a very personal style, depending on the owner’s individual taste.
In this kind of friendly atmosphere, I could use a computer program to look for books. Any good program would remember me and my preferences, possibly even have a wishlist – if I’m a repeat customer, of course. (Yes, Amazon in a store, why not?)
2. A Printing Machine
My bookstore of the future would have a nifty little machine (or five of them) that can print, bind and cut any PoD book within reasonable time. For me – depending on the size of the book – that would be 10 to 20 minutes. I could easily spend that much time waiting for my book to be created, especially if the environment is comfortable and inviting. Maybe I could even chat with a few other bibliophiles waiting for their books.
3. Ebook Delivery
If I choose to read my new book on my e-reader instead, the bookstore should enable instant delivery for no extra cost. And then it should offer a comfortable place for me to read in peace.
3. Coffee and Snacks
While I wait for my book to be printed, the future bookstore would offer coffee, tea and hot chocolate (that one is very important for me). Maybe even snacks. In fact, this could become a major income stream for the „bookstore“.
Now, I can have all of this at home – except for the printing machine, of course. Already, I can get books delivered to me at home within two days.
But the one thing that would make the book store special and create the value for me to actually get off my butt and move my body to its location would be …
4. Human Interaction
The bookstore of the future should hold regular reading events, role playing events, kids‘ events, book nights… everything that brings in people. It could become a community meeting point for people who love reading, being entertained and of course, true book lovers. A place to meet with friends. A home away from home.
Or maybe I mean future libraries cum cafés with the option of buying books?
Image source: F. Moebius