Borders Closes Stores in 200-Plus Cities: What Lies on the Retail Horizon?
"People will not be dictated to," McKeown says. "They appreciate both formats. For reasons of convenience, they may be buying certain categories exclusively in e-books, but for titles they want to have in their homes, keepsakes or books they want to come back to, where the physical, tactile sense of the book is important—they are continuing to buy those books in print.
"… We're seeing no direct evidence—except with the top-line, most commercial bestsellers—of any real cannibalization going on universally as a result of e-books cutting into print book sales," he adds.
Still, e-books present perhaps the biggest challenge to traditional booksellers, with companies like Barnes & Noble staking their futures on drawing the e-book consumer into their brand universe with e-reader devices and e-bookstores.
Books-A-Million, which has partnered with Barnes & Noble (B&N) to offer B&N's Nook e-reader, and Borders, with its Kobo reading device (it also sells the color Micro Cruz tablet), have followed Amazon into the e-reader space, though B&N has arguably done the most of the "big three" (B&N, Borders and Books-a-Million) to integrate e-books into its retail sales and marketing strategy. With the Nook Color, B&N hopes to capture the growing children's e-book space that Amazon currently does not occupy. The company also continues to add content to the Nook, such as magazines, and, like Amazon, has struck exclusive e-book deals with publishers.
'Ad' It Up
A new tactic for Amazon, however, has been its recent venture into the ad-supported book space. Its Kindle with Special Offers, launched in April, shaves $25 off the price of the device for consumers willing to accept advertising along with their literature. Rumors continue to fly about if and when Amazon will release a color Kindle.
Lessons from the 'Big-Box' Retailers
The bestseller market remains the most contested, with swiftly expanding e-book and online sales competing for consumers' dollars with old-line book retailers and newer, non-traditional booksellers like Costco and Wal-mart. McKeown, who also owns and manages a branch of the indie bookstore chain, Books & Books, says these big-box retailers offer lessons for independent booksellers about how they can—and cannot—compete.