Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Can the chains provide us with better small bookstores?

A little intrigue and history of the evolution of brick-and-mortar book stores and what has brought them to their present state of perilous existance. Can they survive? I believe so, with a different and more flexible business model.

From the Shatzkin Files:

There is considerable concern among the trade publishing establishment about the future of brick-and-mortar stores. As well there should be. Retail stores provide the most efficient promotion opportunities for books: putting them in front of people poised to buy. They give clear signals about sales appeal by positioning and piles of stock of varying sizes; they make it possible to “look inside” of illustrated books in ways that no online presentation can match; they enable discovery through serendipity; and they put more different book choices in front of any person faster and more efficiently than any web page or smart phone screen possibly can.

But they’re troubled. Same store sales, or what the Brits call “like-for-like”, have been declining. That may be partly due to the recession, but it is also due to factors that won’t go away: shifts of sales to the Internet, to ebooks, and perhaps to substitutes in other media and the Web.

The magic that grew Barnes & Noble and Borders into behemoths was large store size and title selection. My first experience with this effect was a lesson from my father, Leonard Shatzkin. He took over executive responsibility for the Brentano’s bookstore chain as a vice-president of Crowell-Collier (later called Macmillan, a company subsequently bought by Simon & Schuster and not connected to the company now called Macmillan) in the early 1960s. The store in that chain that was doing least well was in Short Hills, New Jersey. They doubled the number of titles the store carried and it soon was the best-performing store in the chain.

But the “size as a magnet” concept took a back seat to mall store expansion by Walden and B. Dalton in the 1970s. As shopping centers were built across the country, the mall developers favored national chains, which were “bankable”, for their leases. Walden and Dalton rode that wave and added hundreds of stores. Meanwhile, partly assisted by the expanding wholesaling services offered by Ingram, independent stores thrived and grew their title selections beyond what the space-challenged mall stores could offer…Read more at

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