As I write this, I am not only in the midst of Book Business production, but the holiday season as well—parties, decorating and card writing, and lots of gift shopping. In the course of my shopping, I've managed to buy a few books as presents for, well, myself. (I've been good, Santa, I promise.)
I purchased a biography on my Nook; the hardcover edition of a book with many photos and visual elements that I particularly wanted to have in print on Amazon.com; and a copy of "Philadelphia's Washington Square," a photographic history of one of my favorite sections of the city (and where my first job in publishing happened to be located). As a book buyer, I have officially achieved print-digital integration.
The copy of "Washington Square" was purchased at a holiday party I attended at an independent bookstore in Philadelphia. The event offered customers two hours of wine, cheese and 20-percent off any book in the store. It was the first time I had been in a physical bookstore, particularly an independent bookstore, in quite a while.
I was surprised to find that the tiny store was bursting with staff and customers socializing and discussing books. I also found myself becoming lost in the shelves, discovering titles I didn't know existed and would have never thought to search for on Amazon. It would not have occurred to me to look for, let alone buy, a book on Washington Square until it was peering out at me from a bookstore shelf.
The experience reminded me of a quote from The Wall Street Journal's James B. Stewart that I cited in my editor's note in Book Business' September/October 2010 issue. In that quote, Stewart talked about new opportunities for independent booksellers and the importance of their role in fostering communities of book lovers. I felt this particular bookstore was putting Stewart's theory into practice. Of course, it is easy to connect and engage with other bibliophiles online, and the recent launch of Google's eBookstore will further facilitate the discovery of book titles via the Internet (see this issue's "Digital Directions" column on page 34 for in-depth analysis of the eBookstore launch)—but I believe there are aspects of an in-store experience that cannot be replicated online, and I hope more bookstores continue to capitalize on them.