Why the Printed Book Must Survive

26 September 2016

From The Perfect Write:

It’s been my contention for several years that the large, stand-alone, brick-and-mortar bookstores, as well as those that lease space in major malls and strip-malls, will be forced out of existence.  And I’m of the opinion that as copying technology becomes more efficient (read “faster”), less expensive (an Espresso Book Machine approaches six figures), and more user friendly (I’m told this is not a slam dunk, as it takes a few tries to get it right when printing a “personal” work), book-printing kiosks will spring up everywhere.  My prediction is that the B&N/Starbucks model will be reversed, in that Starbucks will be the anchor for the book kiosks, and folks will have the current bestsellers printed before they can slurp down a latte.

I’m rehashing this because I want to make clear that I don’t predict the elimination of the small, independent bookstore; that wonderful institution in which I’m going to guess many who read my detritus routinely laze away an hour or two whenever possible.  In addition to offering used books at ridiculously low prices, it’s in these stores that I’ve been able to purchase long out of print books by Harry Crews and Upton Sinclair and discovered great finds in original covers by Herman Melville (BILLY BUDD) and Agatha Christie (THE SECRET ADVERSARY).

. . . .

The small, independent bookstore is a fixture I never want to see die.  This establishment with a bin of books out front with signs ranging form “fifty cents each” to “take one leave one.”  Upon entering, we’re always greeted by a grotesquely overfed cat or a hound of noble breed that wouldn’t move no matter the strength of what’s attempting to incommode the beast (should it be necessary to reach the bookshelf it’s plopped in front of).  Add to this the indescribable but unmistakable smell of book “mustiness” from pages being kept intact as if protected by this mysterious aroma, which I like refer to as the “scent of knowledge.”  I view the small, independent bookstore the same as patina on a ship’s brass bell or the aging of the frame surrounding a portrait of the matriarch of a founding family.

Link to the rest at The Perfect Write

Just How Many Stores Must Retailers Close to Beat Amazon?

23 September 2016

From The Motley Fool:

Are there enough stores for retailers to close to offset the impact of

Macy’s announced last month it identified 100 stores it will close in a bid to offset six straight quarters of declining comparable store sales. The reduction equates to 12% of its store base and exceeds the combined number of store closings the retailer has initiated over the last six years.

Where some companies like Sears Holdings probably don’t even have enough stores in its portfolio to close to offset the damage being done, others don’t seem to fully appreciate the threat they face and aren’t doing enough to sufficiently offset the Amazon effect.

. . . .

Retail remains “overstored” with too many locations that can’t support declining customer traffic. According to data compiled by the industry watchers at ShopperTrak, retail store foot traffic has plunged 57% between 2010 and 2015, and shoppers are checking their mobile devices before making a purchase.

Some in the industry seemingly don’t want to accept the notion that many of their stores aren’t needed. Instead of closing locations, they’re just reducing their size.

. . . .

But there is a dramatic reduction coming in the number of stores that will be open.

  • Office Depot has closed 400 stores as of the end of its second quarter and will be closing 300 more over the next three years.
  • American Eagle Outfitters will close 154 stores through 2017.
  • Barnes & Noble is closing 10 stores this year and 223 stores by 2024.
  • Chico’s FAS will close 120 stores thru 2017.
  • Children’s Place will close 200 stores by 2017.
  • Gap is closing 35 stores this year.

. . . .

Malls are not the draw they once were and department stores have lost their ability to attract customers. Real estate research firm CoStar reports annual department store retail sales have tumbled 28% since their peak in 1999, and revenues have slid every single year except one to end 2015 at $165.5 billion.

All the while is getting stronger, recently reporting its third consecutive quarter of record profits by generating $857 million in earnings on sales of $30.4 billion.

Link to the rest at The Motley Fool

A Room of One’s Own considers transition to co-op

22 September 2016

From The Badger Herald of Madison, Wisconsin:

A Room of One’s Own bookstore is considering transitioning their store into a co-op.

At a meeting Tuesday night, co-owner Sandi Torkildson and University of Wisconsin Cooperative Development Specialist, Courtney Berner discussed what transitioning into a co-op would mean for the bookstore and opened up discussion for people from the community.

Torkildson said since has owned the store for 47 years, she is looking into co-op as an option that would allow the store to remain open but would give her more free time.

. . . .

Transitioning from a traditional business model into a co-op is a viable option, Torkildson said. Though the bookstore business is not something people get involved in if they want to make a lot of profit since most of the money raised goes back into the store and buying new books, a co-op can help with inventory costs. Typically the investment in books is around $300,000 to $400,000, but this varies during different times of the year such as textbook or holiday seasons.

Berner specializes in starting co-ops from scratch and helping convert more traditional business models to co-ops.

“Co-ops are not oriented toward profit, co-ops exist to serve members,” Berner said.

. . . .

Berner said the bookstore will most likely be a consumer ownership co-op — people who own it are consumers who buy the products of the industry, a worker ownership co-op.

Link to the rest at The Badger Herald

A sure sign Amazon wants a D.C. store: It plans to finally collect sales taxes

21 September 2016

From The Washington Post:

Amazon shoppers in D.C. and 22 states currently make their purchases without having sales taxes collected — a major point of contention for traditional retailers who consider the arrangement unfair.

Shortly the playing field will be evened in the District however as representatives for the online seller informed the D.C. tax office in recent weeks that it would begin collecting the 5.75 percent sales tax on purchases shipped to the District.

. . . .

Company spokespeople repeatedly declined to respond when asked to elaborate, but Amazon is in search of locations to open brick-and-mortar stores in D.C. and opening one would trigger a law requiring that it collect taxes for online sales as well.

. . . .

“If Amazon opens a store they will be subject to District tax law, including the requirements regarding collection and remittance of sales tax, the same as any other retailer in the District,” said David Umansky, spokesman for D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt  “In addition, if Amazon opens a store in the District sales taxes would be applicable to all Amazon products delivered to the District. Vendors on Amazon selling products delivered in the District will be subject to the taxes applicable to them.”

. . . .

Amazon already has three brick-and-mortar book stores, in Seattle, San Diego and Portland. It is hiring for a location outside of Boston. And it has enlisted the brokerage firm KLNB to scout places to open in D.C.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Reading the last chapter at Detroit’s oldest bookstore

20 September 2016

From The Detroit Free Press:

William Foulkes looked out the window of his store and watched the world passing by.

It was September, a new school year had begun, and college students outside walked past in twos and threes, looking down at their cell phones as they moved.

Foulkes was alone inside, standing behind the counter of the Big Bookstore, which sits on the northern edge of what’s now called Midtown, right by Wayne State University. It’s the oldest continually operating bookstore in the city. It’s one of the last independent bookstores left in the region. And after 80 years or so, it’s about to close for good.

. . . .

“I go through stages, between sad and resigned,” Foulkes said. “I’ve gotten so used to over the years not having any control over the fate of things. It’s just another thing. But I saw it coming.”

A girl going past stopped for a second, looked up at the faded sign on the building, peered into the dark doorway and kept moving.

Foulkes hustled to the front window, standing next to the 1980s landline desk phone, by the open front door with the “No Smoking” sign still on it, looking hopefully to see whether  she might come back. “I don’t know what that was just now, but she was looking like, ‘Maybe I should go in?’” he said.

. . . .

“I’m more of a neighborhood bookstore, and it’s different than what you’re supposed to be these days, which is a Barnes and Noble corporate,” Foulkes said. “Even if you’re not corporate you’re supposed to look and feel like it.”

He certainly doesn’t. Foulkes is eccentric and bookish, a 60-year-old with a long, white beard who has never driven a car, doesn’t own a credit card and only recently got a cell phone at the insistence of a family member.

Everyone thinks he owns the place because he’s the only one who works here, and because the store’s become so much like him in all those years in its reluctance to modernize.

There’s no coffee served here, no Wi-Fi, no computers, no website like the chain bookstores have. The stock is catalogued only in his head. All sales are cash only, and are recorded by hand on a ruled paper ledger.

. . . .

King has operated bookstores in Detroit since 1971. “I liked reading,” said King, 66. “I like the way the books held knowledge for everyone. The more you read, the smarter you became, so it was a nicer way of going through life.”

. . . .

“Bill is like from the ‘60s, so he never updated,” King said. “He just never transitioned to the modern age as we know it now. He’s a throwback, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But he recently just got a cell phone and he was bragging how he just sent his first text, and this was a couple weeks ago. Time has passed him and passed the store by.”

“I think I’m more ‘70s,” Foulkes said. “I’m too cynical to be ‘60s.”

Link to the rest at The Detroit Free Press and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The reality of publishing economics has changed for the big players

19 September 2016

From veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin:

A veteran agent who was formerly a publisher confirmed a point for me about how trade publishing has changed over the past two decades, particularly for the big houses. This challenges a fundamental tenet of my father’s understanding of the business. (And that’s the still the source of most of mine.) I had long suspected this gap had opened up between “then” and “now”; it was really great to have it confirmed by a smart and experienced industry player.

One of the things that I took from my father’s experience — he was active in publishing starting in the late 1940s — was that just about every book issued by a major publisher recovered its direct costs and contributed some margin. There were really only two ways a book could fail to recover its costs:

1. if the advance paid to the author was excessive, or

2. if the quantity of the first printing far exceeded the advance copy laydown.

In other words, books near the bottom of the list didn’t actually “lose” money; they just didn’t make much as long as the publisher avoided being too generous with the advance or overly optimistic about what they printed.

. . . .

In the 1970s, the two big chains (Walden and B. Dalton) accounted for about 20 percent of the book trade. The other 80 percent was comprised of nearly as many decision-makers as there were outlets. So while it took a really concerted effort (or a very high-profile book or author) to get a title in every possible store location, just about every book went into quite a few. With five thousand individuals making the decision about which books to take, even a small minority of the buyers could put a book into 500 or 1000 stores.

But two big things have conspired to change that reality. The larger one is the consolidation of the retail trade. Now there are substantially fewer than 1000 decision-makers that matter. Amazon is half the sales. Barnes & Noble is probably in the teens. Publishers tell us that there are about 500 independent stores that are significant and that all the indies combined add up to 6 to 8 percent of the retail potential. The balance of the trade — about 25 percent — is the wholesalers, libraries, and specialty accounts.

. . . .

The other thing that has happened is that the houses are much better organized about which books they are “getting behind”. This has the beneficial effect of making sure the books seen to have the biggest potential get full distribution. But it also has the impact of reducing the chances that the “other” books will get full attention from Barnes & Noble (able to deliver more outlets with a single buyer than one would customarily get from the entire indie store network). And, without that, it takes a lot of luck or online discovery to rescue a book from oblivion.

The agent who was confirming my sense of these things agreed that the big houses used to be able to count on a sale of 1500 or 2000 copies for just about any title they published. Now it is not uncommon for books to sell in the very low triple digits, even on a big publisher’s list.

Even before any overhead charge and with a paltry advance, that isn’t going to cover a house’s cost of publication. So there definitely are books today — lots of books — coming from major houses that are not recovering even their direct costs.

This is a fundamental change in big publisher economics from what it was two decades ago. While the potential wins have become exponentially bigger than they were in bygone days, the losses have become increasingly common.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to William for the tip.

Amazon Opening Another Bookstore in Massachusetts

19 September 2016

From Shelf Awareness:

After opening stores in Seattle, Wash., and San Diego, Calif., Amazon has confirmed that it will open two more stores, near Portland, Ore., and in Chicago, Ill., in the near future. Now we’ve seen ads for booksellers to staff a future Amazon Books location in Legacy Place, an outdoor shopping center in Dedham, Mass., in the suburbs southwest of Boston.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

PG hasn’t read anything about how much Amazon pays its bookstore employees compared to the pay at locally-owned bookshops.

Blackwell’s trials new ‘enhanced’ bookshop concepts

16 September 2016

From The Bookseller:

Blackwell’s has launched two new “enhanced” concept stores on the eve of the Back to University season in a bid to combat the “pressured” academic bookshop model, with, among other initiatives, a competitive price-match offer.

The fresh, aggressive initiatives follow statistics that suggest that more students buy print textbooks online than in bookshops.

In one of the “most exciting projects” for Blackwell’s in recent times, new concept shops have opened on the university campuses of Liverpool and Cardiff respectively, fusing the company’s physical and digital offer and striving to put socialising at the heart of students’ in-store experience.

Fighting against the perception that cheaper textbooks can be sourced online, the 137-year-old chain retailer is launching a nationwide Student Price Match Guarantee, vowing to equal the price of textbooks at Amazon, Waterstones and W H Smith. The chain has also worked with academic publishers to offer a digital version of most print textbooks on its e-textbook platform Blackwell Learning, for £5 if students buy a print copy, and it is also offering students the option to buy and sell second-hand textbooks at every UK branch.

. . . .

Both the Liverpool branch and the 2,000 sq ft Cardiff University shop, managed by Paula Martin, will have four coloured zones, with Academic represented by “Blackwell’s blue”, Digital under green, Promotional offers flagged by light blue and Non- Book sections marked in yellow.

. . . .

The revitalised look and competitive price-match offer follow the news that prominent independent academic bookshop The University Bookseller, based in Plymouth and owned by Ron Johns, closed in December after 42 years. Johns cited low publisher discounts and students increasingly turning to the web to source information as reasons for the closure. The University of Leicester’s academic bookshop is slated for closure, after a consultation by the institution urged the university to offer an experience that “better reflects students’ needs and the way in which they now access books and learning materials”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

After Months of Strong Sales, Bookstores See Drop in July

16 September 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Bookstore sales in July fell by just under 1%, compared to July 2015, according to preliminary estimates released Thursday morning by the U.S. Census Bureau. The decline marks the first month in 2016 that bookstore sales fell, compared to the same period in 2015.

Sales fell from $752 million in July 2015 to $745 million this July, a decline of 0.9%.

The drop reflects the fact that July 2016 did not have as strong a selling title as Go Set a Watchman, which was released last July and proved a particularly strong seller for bookstores.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Bookstores 2.0: Bring your dog, buy a beer

16 September 2016

From USA Today:

In this Amazon era when nearly any book in print can be delivered overnight, old-fashioned bookstores are finding new ways to attract customers and visiting travelers. Some offer bar service, sponsor book clubs and even rent out as wedding venues. Indeed, in recent years the number of small independent bookstores has begun to grow, “They are becoming community hubs and places you want to be,” says Darren Lancaster of ThinOptics, which makes reading glasses you can store with your cellphone.

. . . .

Bart’s Books
Ojai, Calif.
This store has long operated on the honor system, letting customers pay for their books by depositing payment in a can instead of a cash register. “It’s old school,” Lancaster says. “If you’re going to be a locals-friendly bookstore, why not trust your clients?” The shop also calls itself the world’s largest outdoor bookshop.

. . . .

Alabama Booksmith
Birmingham, Ala.
Collectors around the world have found their way to this Deep South shop, which only sells books signed by the author. And these aren’t just regional writers, but international bestsellers like David Baldacci, Isabel Allende and John Grisham. Except for a few rare volumes, the books are offered at list price.

. . . .

Books on the Square
Providence, R.I.
No need to leave your pup at home when browsing this new and used book store. Not only is there a water bowl at the front door, but dogs are welcome inside as well. “They’re trying to make this a place to hang out, like an alternative living room, and what do you have in your living room? You have your dog,” Lancaster says.

. . . .

Housing Works Bookstore
New York City
While you can find love stories at this used bookstore, the real romance happens after hours when the shop rents out its space for weddings. While initially geared to the gay community, it has become popular with straight couples too. The store has its own catering service, and it’s all for a good cause: Profits benefit the largest community-based AIDS service organization in the nation.

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Shelly for the tip.

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