Minding the Bookstore Redux: How a Mentality Turned into a Mistake
In a Book Business column on this same subject that was, almost by coincidence, published exactly five years ago (August 2009) I wrote that the industry was too distracted by the emotional reasons to support bookstores and was overlooking the practical ones: "In a bookstore, the future of the store depends on books. In a non-bookstore, the future of the book depends on the store," I wrote. "If publishers don't ask themselves hard questions and do a better job managing their offline content, they might just wake up one day and realize the future is out of their hands."
Eventually, Borders eliminated that growth strategy statement from its annual filing, but by then it was too late to save the retailer. Hopefully publishers will finally drop that same mentality and realize the future isn't about satisfying the fictional "power reader" but rather building a relationship with consumers one person at a time with one book at a time. That kind of mission statement will work great with committed bookstores as retailing partners, but publishers better move fast while there are still some left.
Michael Norris is an independent consultant specializing in consumer media and retail. He spent more than nine years as editor of Book Publishing Report and senior analyst at Simba Information. He lives and works in Stamford, Connecticut and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org