Guest Column: Minding the Store
If the Internet has taught traditional media anything, it’s that valuable content should be protected or it will quickly lose its worth. Letting music, news articles or whatever fall into the hands of those who do not value it has been toppling old media companies left and right, and is likely to continue. Take newspapers: Had their stories not been copied, pasted, snarked upon and uprooted far from their original sources (and the advertisers), there wouldn’t be nearly as many journalists in the unemployment line today. Even as we come to understand the protect-your-content lesson when it comes to the digital world, we are slow to apply its relevance to the brick-and-mortar one. After all, no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, most consumers buy books—yes, print books—at physical, non-Internet store locations, according to multiple research sources. That isn’t changing anytime soon, no matter how many electronic reading devices are thrown at consumers.
What is changing is where books are being bought, which matters a lot more than publishers seem willing to admit.
Just prior to the publication of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Simba Information surveyed bookstores across the country to find out what they were expecting from the book and how they felt about the series. The stores that were planning a midnight book-release party (more than 80 percent of respondents) were excited about their plans: One even persuaded an ice cream shop in the same strip mall to stay open past midnight, too.
But when it came to how they felt about the series ending or whether J.K. Rowling should add an eighth title, the booksellers were indifferent. Some said the cost of putting on a party was a money-loser, but most complained about entering their grocery stores or local big-box department stores the day after their parties and seeing piles of “Deathly Hallows” on pallets near the cash registers. In some cases, the books were priced lower than the independent bookstores paid themselves.