Frustrated by a lack of opportunity to display and sell their work, self-published children's author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson and history author Timothy Jacobs decided to create a bookstore of their own, Gulf Coast Bookstore, and to only sell books by indie authors.
"It's just hard to compete with Stephen King or Dan Brown in a mega-bookstore that has tens of thousands of books for sale," says Jacobs.
Giving the keynote speech at the London Book Fair's Digital Minds conference on Monday, the bestselling writer spoke of the six months he has spent touring with his latest novel Us, published last autumn. During the publicity tour he noticed the closure of stores in New York and London, singling out the loss of Exmouth Market's Clerkenwell Tales for particular regret. "I felt an all too familiar sadness, usually accompanied by guilt because while you're sorry the shop has gone, you're also vaguely aware that you hadn't bought anything there for a while,"
Now that Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have parted ways on a partnership to produce and sell the Nook e-reader, the book retailer is yet again faced with having to reimagine its business model for an increasingly tech-centric world.
For inspiration, it should look no further than the coffee shops inside many of its stores, according to Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader.
"Barnes & Noble doesn't really know who its competition is," said Fader, who is also co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative. "It always thought it was Amazon or other companies that are selling books.
That bookstore shelf space is disappearing is a reality that nobody denies. It makes sense that there are people trying to figure out how to arrest the decline. There has been some recent cheerleading about the "growth" of indie bookstores, but the hard reality is that they're expanding shelf space more slowly than chains are shrinking it. No publisher today can make a living selling books just through brick-and-mortar bookstores. For straight text reading, it is rapidly becoming an ancillary channel, a special market.