Why Shop at a Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore?

23 August 2016

From Digital Book World:

Do you still shop at your local bookstore? I typically go once, maybe twice a year, and the last time for me was December 2015. This weekend, though, I made a rare summer visit to my local Barnes & Noble in search of books for my almost six-month-old grandson, Jasper. No matter how good Amazon makes its “Look Inside” feature, it will never replace the experience of flipping through a children’s book, especially those with pop-ups, pull-tabs and other fun elements you find in so many children’s titles.

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and there were at most 10-15 other shoppers in the entire store. That got me thinking: what are the compelling reasons to shop at a physical bookstore? The “buy local” movement is a nice, feel-good incentive for consumers, but it’s not a viable long-term strategy for brick-and-mortar stores.

Despite my love/hate relationship with Amazon over the years, I admit that I currently buy almost all my books there. Thanks to Prime, my wife and I spend a lot on plenty of other Amazon products every month, too. That’s the beast we consumers created, and it simply replaced another beast that preceded it: the formerly powerful combo of B&N and Borders superstores.

It’s sad to watch B&N shift square footage from books to seemingly anything other than books. I understand that the company needs to find a new path forward, but I’m amazed at the many book discovery and sales opportunities it has ignored or overlooked.

This particular B&N had been completely remodeled since I last visited it in 2015. Despite all the signage, it took far too long for me to locate the two sections I wanted to visit after finding my Jasper books. Why isn’t there an in-store mobile app designed to quickly help me find my way—sort of a virtual replacement for all the in-store personnel that used to assist you at every turn? GPS and in-store sensors are more than good enough to help consumers navigate a superstore. Plus, there’s a data collection opportunity these stores are missing out on; publishers would likely pay big bucks for reports quantifying consumer time spent in front over various promotional campaign types (e.g., end-cap vs. front-of-store vs. free-standing displays).

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Online bookseller Bookman & Black cancelled

22 August 2016

From The Bookseller:

David Headley, founder of Goldsboro Books in London’s Cecil Court, told The Bookseller he was “hugely disappointed” about the development, which followed some “unexpected setbacks” with the website which have resulted in the project under the Bookman & Black name being abandoned. Headley declined to say more about the cancellation of the venture, which was due to launch in October, for legal reasons.

Subscribers to the Bookman & Black website in its beta form only received a newsletter last month explaining it would be launching soon with an inventory of over 250,000 books, adding that the company was “working closely with authors, publishers and fellow book lovers to create a range of exciting and exclusive content”.

. . . .

“It is, of course, hugely disappointing that we are not going to launch,” Headley said. “I continue to be a firm believer that online bookselling needs a new approach. The support from the literary community in setting the company up, from well-known authors and major publishing houses, has been overwhelming and encouraging and I am grateful for their support.”

. . . .

Its aim was to aspire to replicate the experience of an independent bookshop online, with Headley saying at the time: “At Bookman & Black we believe it’s time for a change in the field of online bookselling. We will be looking to work with publishers and authors to provide readers with an alternative online shopping experience, with all the joy and magic of browsing a physical bookshop, offering the knowledge and expertise of the professional bookseller.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG has no knowledge of what went on behind the scenes of this project.

However, he speculates:

  1. One of the partners in this venture was a bookstore owner (two individual owners, actually, according to their website) and the other was a website developer. They spoke different languages.
  2. The bookstore owner knew nothing of note about the internet, the web, etc., etc., etc.
  3. The website developer thought it would be building an extension of a typical bookstore website like the one it had created for the bookstore owner.
  4. The original project plan kept growing and growing and growing as the bookstore owner requested one vague new feature after another. In part, these requests resulted from the bookstore owner examining Amazon’s website, perhaps for the first time.
  5. The website developer kept soldiering along so long as the bookstore owner kept paying the bills.
  6. The bookstore owner ran out of money.
  7. The bookstore owner was sincere in his/their belief that “it’s time for a change in the field of online bookselling” (translation: Let’s take down Amazon and save physical bookstores).
  8. Building an online bookstore to seriously compete with Amazon and constructing a perpetual motion machine require about the same effort.
  9. “Support from the literary community . . . from well-known authors and major publishing houses” and £4.90 will buy you a ride on the Underground.

Again, this is all speculation. PG could be wrong about the whole thing. Perhaps Bezos hired the Russian mob to strangle this initiative in the cradle before it could grow to destroy his empire. Maybe the Cecil Court merchant’s association applied pressure through Theresa May’s office. Or Brexit ruined everything.

One of the atypical aspects of this project is the public announcement via The Bookseller that it’s a flop. Most of the time, participants in these sorts of failures are content to have everyone forget the project ever existed.

Indie Booksellers: Book Clubs Are for Children Too

22 August 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Most of the five million Americans whom the New York Times recently estimated as belonging to at least one book club are adults wishing to mix reading with socializing. While book clubs are not as prevalent among children and teens, who have to contend during the school year with classes, homework, and after-school activities, and then summer’s outdoor distractions, a number of bookstores around the country have launched book clubs for young customers – with varying degrees of success.

Some readers, according to Lisa Baudoin at Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wis., need “a social aspect” to their reading, which book clubs provide. “It’s especially important for kids,” she added. The store hosts an in-store group for middle grade students and teens, in which the members read the galleys of their choice provided by the store and then discuss them. The store also partners with a school librarian who distributes six copies of a galley at the end of the school year to rising fourth-graders and sets dates during the summer to meet to discuss it. There are eight children as well as teachers and librarians in the group, called the Meadow View Book Club.

. . . .

“It’s heavy on the boys,” Baudoin noted about the club members, ascribing that to the personality and efforts of the librarian who moderates the group. But, she wonders, “Why do we have them when they’re younger and lose them when they’re older?”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Clarissa Murphy, a bookseller at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., who spoke to PW about a book club of boys moderated for several years by one of her bookselling colleagues that is now in hiatus: its members ranged in age from eight to 12 years old. “Then they turned 13,” she said, “And they were interested in other things.”

In contrast, Holly Myers, a buyer at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle, says that the club she moderates for customers in grades six up to 12 has been doing well for the past two years with no signs of a loss of interest in its membership. Its dozen or so members are primarily female, though; they meet monthly to discuss the book of their choice. Many of them also have their own blogs, upon which they post reviews of the books they read.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Bookstores finally turning the page?

18 August 2016

Infographic: Are U.S. Bookstores Finally Turning The Page? | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

Barnes & Noble shares fall after boss sacked

18 August 2016

From BBC News:

US bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has sacked its chief executive Ronald Boire after less than one year on the job, sending its share price falling.

The company’s share price fell more than 13% to an eight-month low.

The board said that Mr Boire, who was only appointed in September 2015, was “not a good fit”.

Barnes & Noble has struggled to maintain its hold in the US market amid new technology and stiff competition from Amazon.

. . . .

“This [ousting of Mr Boire] was a major surprise,” said John Tinker, senior research analyst at Gabelli & Company. He said the new chief executive would need a wide set of skills to manage the changes facing Barnes & Noble.

In June, Mr Boire held a meeting with shareholders in which he laid out the company’s strategic plan for the next few years – including new store concepts with expanded restaurants with waiter service.

“It’s a tricky role,” said Mr Tinker, “you’re a retailer but you have to have a digital strategy for competing against Amazon, you have to understand consumers trends and now with the restaurants, you’ll need to understand that that industry.”

. . . .

The departure of Mr Boire has raised questions about the company’s ability to manage the challenges facing the business.

Over the last two years, Barnes & Noble’s sales have fallen as it loses out to lower prices from rivals such as Amazon.

. . . .

Once a new boss is found, Barnes & Noble will have had five chief executives in just four years.

Link to the rest at BBC News

Barnes & Noble Ousts CEO

17 August 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Leonard Riggio is back—for now.

Less than a month before he was set to step down as executive chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc. at the book retailer’s annual meeting, Mr. Riggio, 75 years old, is instead taking over as the company’s acting chief executive.

Barnes & Noble said Thursday that its board had ousted Ronald Boire as CEO after concluding that Mr. Boire “was not a good fit for the organization and that it was in the best interests of all parties for him to leave the company.”

The bookstore chain said it would begin searching for a new CEO immediately.

Mr. Boire, the former CEO of Sears Canada Inc., joined Barnes & Noble last September as chief executive shortly after Barnes & Noble completed the spinoff of its college bookstore unit Barnes & Noble Education Inc.

At the time of Mr. Boire’s hiring, Mr. Riggio said his experience, leadership ability and track record made him “an ideal chief executive for Barnes & Noble.”

. . . .

“It’s worrisome,” said one publishing executive. “If things were going great at Barnes & Noble they wouldn’t need to make a change in less than a year. Our business prays for their health.”

. . . .

The change “is a major surprise given that there was a recent investor conference and the assumption was that Ron was in charge,” said John Tinker, an analyst with Gabelli & Co. “Investors don’t like surprises.”

Mr. Tinker said that Mr. Riggio’s biggest task will be increasing same-store sales growth and figuring out how to revive existing stores.

“They need to bring in more customers,” he said. “You can’t beat Amazon on price or efficiency, so you need to focus on discovery.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

PG says hiring the next CEO will be very difficult when the previous CEO was fired after less than a year. Plus, a rich geezer who was supposed to retire and who owns a big chunk of stock won’t go away and will be running the company “on an interim basis.”

Add in the fact that Barnes & Noble is sinking with no turnaround in sight and the CEO’s post sounds like a sure-fire career killer. BN needs a genius to save it and all geniuses will be otherwise occupied.

All hail the bookshop: survivor against the odds

12 August 2016

From The Conversation:

This National Bookshop Day, Australia’s one-time Minister for Small Business, Nick Sherry, will be remembered for his words, not his deeds. A reader, bookbuyer and enthusiastic patron of terrestrial bookshops, in June 2011 Sherry told a conference on online business that,

In five years, other than a few speciality bookshops in capital cities, you will not see a bookstore. They will cease to exist.

Booksellers were livid, and I don’t just mean standing behind their counters muttering impolite thoughts about the minister down into their cardigans. They got pretty shouty. And determined to prove him wrong.

Australia’s inaugural National Bookshop Day was held two months later. The sixth, on August 13, will be the first to fall beyond the minister’s five-year time period. And bricks-and-mortar booksellers have outlasted VCR manufacturers, Kodachrome and Nokia’s dominance of the phone industry to still be alive and kicking.

As it turned out, the minister was wrong – he extrapolated too far – but there were reasons at the time to have reservations about the industry’s prospects. The REDGroup – parent company of Borders and Angus & Robertson – had just gone into receivership and there were concerns that much of its 20% share of the Australian book trade might simply be lost, with those dollars drifting away from books, or at least from Australian retailers.

. . . .

But it’s now 2016 and the scheduled apocalypse didn’t arrive. So, what happened?

Ebooks are here to stay, but paper books aren’t going away and, despite Amazon, neither is the astute neighbourhood bookseller – who realises that ebooks are not an enemy vanquished and that the landscape is not what it once was, but that the local bookshop has a place in it anyway. Recently, bookshop numbers have been rising rather than falling. According to Joel Becker, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, “we’ve seen an increase over the past couple of years of about 5%.”

. . . .

Browsing in a bookshop feels like time well spent, while searching for a book online feel like squandered time – only the purchase counts.

Link to the rest at The Conversation

London Bookstores Go Rogue as No Wi-Fi Zones

10 August 2016

From The New York Times:

What do literary tourists look for when they visit the British Isles? Often it’s the quaint, old-fashioned bookshops that provide the perfect excuse to browse uninterrupted and to disconnect from the world. Until recently, the trend for barista-made coffee and high-speed Wi-Fi was considered by some in the city’s bookish crowd to be ruining London’s centuries-old tradition of disconnected browsing.

But a crop of bookshops is rebelling against frenzied online engagement and is creating environments where the real-life, internet-free book browse is the most effective way to expand your social and professional networks. And in countering the internet overload, some stores are proving to be among London’s hottest hangouts.

. . . .

“We’re celebrating human curation over algorithmic rhythms,” said Mr. Silva, who was spurred to open his shop after experiencing a common affliction for London’s bibliophiles — the repetitive, grating ring tones of smartphones disrupting the tranquillity of his bookshop experience. “We wanted to get people using their human intuition when they shop for books. You can get Wi-Fi anywhere now, it’s not necessary in a bookshop.”

. . . .

“If someone gets a phone call, they leave the shop. It’s the same with the internet — people just know this isn’t the space for being online,” said Tamsin Clark, owner of Tenderbooks, which opened in 2014 in Covent Garden, a lively neighborhood packed with theaters and rare-book shops. “The thing about books is that they’re more interesting than the internet — we assume that everyone who comes here believes that.”

. . . .

Perhaps the most serious of the bookshops is Lutyens & Rubinstein. Since 2009 its Notting Hill building has been divided between a bookshop and a literary agency — and the presence of the highbrow mood of the agency is what sets the tone for the prevailing silence of the reading room. “You wouldn’t even dare ask for the Wi-Fi code here,” a customer there said recently.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Masha for the tip.

Indigo Books and Music Inc reports quarterly revenue jump driven by general merchandise

10 August 2016

From The Financial Post:

Indigo Books and Music Inc. reported Tuesday solid same-store sales growth of 7.7 per cent in the first quarter as the retailer made more headway in giftware and toys.

. . . .

The company, which has restructured to become a “cultural department store” in recent years, offering a broader array of merchandise categories, operated one less superstore and three fewer small format stores compared with a year ago.

Revenue growth was driven by continued double-digit growth in general merchandise, the company said.

Link to the rest at The Financial Post

Frontlist Fiction Hits a Dry Spell

9 August 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

No adult fiction title released in the January-through-June period managed to make the top 20 print bestsellers list in the first half of the year. In the first six months of 2015, two novels released that year, The Girl on the Train and Grey, held the first and third spots, respectively, on the print list and were #1 and #2 on the Amazon Top 20 Kindle E-books List.

Publishers have been expecting difficulty getting media attention for their books in the second half of 2016, as coverage of the presidential election dominates the various media outlets where authors usually drum up publicity. But in the first half of the year, the news cycle was already focused on the unusually entertaining Republican primary campaign season and news about terrorist attacks and police shootings. “Current events have gotten in the way” of publishers’s efforts to promote new books, said Carol Fitzgerald, president of The Book Reporter Network.

Whereas two new nonfiction books cracked the top-20 print list in early 2016—When Breath Becomes Air and Spark Joy—the absence of fiction titles may having something to do with timing. Stephen King’s End of Watch, for example, was released late in June and is still likely to put up solid numbers. Even so, End of Watch sold about 75,000 copies in its first week on sale—a good figure, but not close to the 354,0000 copies Grey sold last June, when it first hit bookstore shelves. Since the advent of e-books, gone are the days when franchise authors can regularly post huge opening-week sales of print books. And unlike last year, when Girl on the Train and Grey were both selling well in print and digital, the two lists in 2016 were very different.

. . . .

 Without a new book getting attention in both print and digital formats, it is hard to build a lot of momentum and word-of-mouth publicity, some industry insiders said. “Buzz happens, but less so,” said Alie Hess, a buyer at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass. “Girl on the Train and All the Light We Cannot See were the last ones.”

. . . .

 One publishing executive, who acknowledged being frustrated by her company’s difficulty in breaking out frontlist works, said people seem to be focused on reading just a few titles. Indeed, Jojo Moyes has enjoyed a long run with three editions of Me Before You, and The Girl on the Train and Life-Changing Magic have also had long runs. With people more pressed than ever for time, the theory goes, they don’t want to read something they may not like.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Julia for the tip.

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