Borders Closes Stores in 200-Plus Cities: What Lies on the Retail Horizon?
"Ultimately, I feel the day has passed when the 150,000- to 200,000-volume, 25,000-square-foot superstore is the preferred shopping venue for books and creates the sense of discovery that people are looking for," he says. "It was a powerful model in the late '80s and '90s. I don't think it conveys the same advantages it once did, and in certain [areas], in terms of the operating costs and the overhead involved, it provides certain distinct disadvantages in providing a vital bricks-and-mortar retailing experience."
As the largest chains contract and move more fully into e-commerce, McKeown sees opportunity once again for independents.
"I believe the independent can create a more intimate, more robust shopping experience in a much smaller footprint, draw down their costs of overhead, and as a result capitalize on the very substantive part of the market that is still devoted to print sales, even while indies grapple with the need to move into the Internet space more aggressively, selling e-books, etc., and cultivating a more intimate relationship with their customers via online marketing as well as in-store marketing," he says.
A great example of capitalizing on the advantages of a physical location is the independent Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., which in 2009 installed an Espresso Book Machine on its sales floor. Owner Jeffery Mayersohn sees a powerful illustration of the changing book landscape simply by standing at his front window and looking across Massachusetts Avenue at Harvard University's Widener Memorial Library.
"About a week or so before we got our machine installed, [the machine's developer] On Demand Books announced a deal they had done with Google, which gave us access to the public domain content of what Google has scanned," he says. "Not everybody can [access] Harvard's Widener Library, but now if they want a book from Widener, all they have to do is go across the street to Harvard Bookstore and print the book, as Harvard is one of the libraries that gave Google access to scan their titles."