Last week I was listening to Mitch Joel’s podcast ‘Content Marketing with Joe Pulizzi’. As is often the case when listening to someone else muse about writing he gave me a few ideas that I wanted to share. My first is on the changing world of book selling.
Here are a couple of quotes that sparked me off…
Discussing the relative successes of the print and online channels
(Around 27mins in)
Joe Pulizzi: “There’s nothing wrong with the print channel, the problem is that advertising won’t support it.”
Mitch Joel: “I believe we’re in media purgatory now…There are moments, like yesterday, where I’m walking through the airport and I go into a bookstore and I buy three books on my kindle app while I’m standing in front of the physical copy of the book…Exponentially it doesn’t look as good for print as it does for mobile”
Joe Pulizzi: “What’s really interesting is when we do interviews…Nobody has ever turned down an interview for the print magazine…But if you ask them the same one for the online story they might get back to you, they might not…They are putting more credibility in the print product, than the online product”.
Online retailers are inadvertently using the tangibility of ‘real’ booksellers to sell more books
The number of Kindle and e-books has dramatically increased in recent years. This seems to be a trend that’s set to stay and ‘real’ booksellers are taking the fall. I hope there will always be a place in the world for the second-hand and specialist sectors but stores like Waterstones appear to be fighting a battle on cost.
To me the biggest selling point of a ‘real’ bookshop that you can walk in and have a rummage through the book before you buy. Books have a wonderful smell and as humans we’re unlikely to ever completely get over the tactile feel of paper. People love to wander through bookstores while waiting for a bus or a train, on a day off or before catching up for a coffee.
So, why don’t online booksellers have ‘real’ stores?
This may seem like a silly question. Of course the main USPs of online retailers are that they’re cheap, you don’t have to be in-store to buy and the books are delivered to your door (especially great if you don’t want someone to see what you’ve bought). But as Mitch Joel pointed out, people still walk into a Waterstones or W H Smith’s store to thumb through the real book first, then if they have a e-book reader they often check the price before buying, which they also do in-store while standing next to the real thing.
Why not take advantage of the fact that people are reminded of books while they’re out and about?
I imagine this could operate in a similar way to the virtual Japanese subway stores that have proved so popular on bookmarking sites. You could even advertise them on posters at underground stations. Best sellers list: Front cover + back cover +QR code, connect it through an Amazon app and jobs a good’un.
Or you could keep the tactile qualities of a bookshop. One or two copies of each book on the shelves, and a code to scan. So you can take a look at and feel the ‘real’ thing before buying it online.
I hope that little book-shops never disappear from the high-street but really appealing to our senses is what the online retailers have left to conquer. Maybe the Google generations won’t even feel the need to touch a book, but I hope it’s something that will be passed on.
Now have a read of:
- The Future of Libraries and Bookstores lies in their own Past by Kirsten Winkler. I think she makes a good point about the usefulness of libraries, besides borrowing books.
- Do bookshops have a future? By Tim Walker. Exploring Waterstones’s return to old-fashioned book shop values.
- The Death of the Library: Read it and Weep by Delia Lloyd. Argues that updating libraries could be a mistake and that the Google generation might lose the opportunity to learn real research skills.
- How to survive as an independent bookshop by Alison Flood. It’s astonishing that there are only 1,200 independent bookstores (bear in mind that this is an old stat now).
Let me know below, where do you think publishing is heading?