Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

08/12/2010

Booksellers’ Evolving Strategies

Filed under: booksellers,bookstores,digital books,physical books — gator1965 @ 2:11 pm

Picture this: You’re walking down the aisles of a bookstore looking at the vast shelves of books, stopping to pull one of interest down for a closer look, touching it, smelling the newness of it, flipping the pages and reading sections, holding it in your hands…Ahhh, you decide, this is the one I want…

Are these simple moves and stimulating teasers to your senses blowing away, soon to be Gone With The Wind ?

Julie Bosman of the New York Times writes an incisive piece examining the rapidly changing atmosphere of bookstores and booksellers’ changing strategies to stay in business:

In the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” Tom Hanks played the aggressive big-box retailer Joe Fox driving the little bookshop owner played by Meg Ryan out of business.

Twelve years later, it may be Joe Fox’s turn to worry. Readers have gone from skipping small bookstores to wondering if they need bookstores at all. More people are ordering books online or plucking them from the best-seller bin at Wal-Mart.

But the threat that has the industry and some readers the most rattled is the growth of e-books. In the first five months of 2009, e-books made up 2.9 percent of trade book sales. In the same period in 2010, sales of e-books, which generally cost less than hardcover books, grew to 8.5 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers, spurred by sales of the Amazon Kindle and the new Apple iPad. For Barnes & Noble, long the largest and most powerful bookstore chain in the country, the new competition has led to declining profits and store traffic. After the company announced last week that it was putting itself up for sale, Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble’s chairman and largest shareholder, who has declared his confidence in the company’s future, hinted that he might make a play to buy the company himself and take it private.

For readers, e-books have meant a transformation not just of the reading experience, but of the book-buying tradition of strolling aisles, perusing covers and being able to hold books in their hands. Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital.

“The shift from the physical to the digital book can pick up some of the economic slack, but it can’t pick up the loss that is created when you don’t have the customers browsing the displays,” said Laurence J. Kirshbaum, a literary agent. “We need people going into stores and seeing a book they didn’t know existed and buying it.”

Read more http://alturl.com/b33s3

06/21/2010

Physical Books and Ebooks Are Not a Zero-sum Game



The hardcover, printed book will never go away…Too many people, from all demographics, enjoy them and want them around…Just that simple.

More news on indie booksellers from an article by Judith Rosen for Publishers Weekly:

Optimism greeted a presentation by former Perseus Books CEO-turned-bookseller Jack McKeown at last month’s BEA. He was discussing a survey that looked at how independent booksellers can recapture what McKeown calculates is $260 million a year in “leakage” (missed business) as well as examining the impact of e-books on an independent’s business. Booksellers like Robert Sindelar, managing partner of Third Place Books in Lake Forest and Ravenna, Wash., found it “reaffirming” to hear statistics that confirm what he and other bookstore owners feel in their gut—that book buyers want to shop in independents and that physical books and e-books are not a zero-sum game. “Out of the people who have been keeping us in business,” said Sindelar, “their habits don’t seem like they’ll be changing dramatically.”

The data from the survey, conducted in April, can be viewed at Verso Advertising (www.versoadvertising.com/beasurvey). It reflects a third drilling down (after two earlier studies) of the buying habits of those 18 and older based on 9,300 respondents from a pool of 110 million Internet users across 5,100 Web sites. Subsequent surveys will be conducted quarterly. At the ABA’s Winter Institute, McKeown had discussed findings from two earlier studies that indicated that 28% of the U.S. market, or 62.4 million people, are avid book buyers who read five hours a week or more. Two-thirds, or 41 million people, are part of the boomer, silent, and Eisenhower generations. More importantly, while 27.3% of avid buyers said they prefer to shop in independents, the market share for independents, lower than 10% according to most publishers, told a different story. In the new survey, McKeown identified three factors—discount, selection, and proximity—that could bring market share in line with mindshare, or the awareness of a brand—by helping to increase the number of store visits by avid readers.

As McKeown and Verso president Denise Berthiaume ready their own bookstore, a Books & Books affiliate to open in the Hamptons on July 1, McKeown says that the surveys “if anything, accelerated our decision to open a store. That and finding a location.” The surveys also reaffirmed his belief that e-books are not a displacement technology, particularly in the short term. Avid book readers who own e-readers are splitting their purchases among print and e-books, the survey found. As for growing market share at Books & Books Westhampton, McKeown says that he and Berthiaume are giving “strong thought” to discounting based on survey data that a 15% discount could produce a 4% bump in sales overall. The other two factors—selection and proximity—McKeown plans to address virtually by going after the 12 million indie customers the survey identified who want to give their e-mail addresses to independent booksellers. McKeown is planning to market books online on behalf of all five Books & Books stores and to create newsletters specifically tailored to different types of customers.

For Sindelar at Third Place Books, the survey provided fresh impetus for creating a frequent buyer program and for discounting a broader selection of titles that better reflect the store, instead of New York Times hardcover bestsellers. However, not everyone viewed the survey data as a call to action. “We’re not making any changes based on what McKeown said,” notes Geoffrey Jennings, corporate counsel at Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kans. “Capturing mindshare sounds attractive. It happens one customer at a time.” Jennings also questioned the notion of buying loyalty through discount.

ABA CEO Oren Teicher views the survey as a roadmap to a stable bookselling future, although he did note similarities to earlier ABA efforts under BookSense to close the gap on book buyers who identified themselves as independent book buyers but only bought four out of 10 books at an indie store. “The overarching message here,” says Teicher, “is that there are still people out there buying books and there are opportunities. In a world with doom and gloom there are ways in which our members can compete.”

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