There are similarities between selling books through gift shops at museums and through gift shops at zoos, aquariums and parks. They all try to promote education in their stores to extend the experience of their guests. And since the books are usually sold on a non-returnable basis with discounts averaging 55 percent, you can sell them profitably, too.
Every year, millions of people visit thousands of museums, most of which have a gift shop in which books could be sold. If you can help these gift-shop operators educate and entertain their guests, you can sell a lot of books. Since they are usually sold on a non-returnable basis with discounts averaging 55 percent, you can sell them profitably, too.
Many independent publishers try to sell their books only to bookstores and other retailers. Their efforts consist primarily of securing distribution partners to funnel books to retailers who put them on their store shelves.
While flying to Oakland, California (from Hartford, Connecticut) last week, I had the opportunity to visit several airports. One thing in common is that they all had at least one bookstore, surrounded by a captive audience of interested—and sometimes weary—travelers looking for something to do to help pass time.
An interesting article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, "As Big Boxes Shrink, They Also Rethink," described how the major discount stores and warehouse clubs are rethinking their business models and downsizing as people are buying more products online. Two examples are the Best Buy Mobile stores with a focus on smartphones, and the smaller stores that Wal-Mart is rolling out (40,000 square feet versus its 185,000-square-feet superstores).
The fact that Border filed for Chapter 11 protection may actually be the best thing that has happened to book publishers in a long time. It will make people more aware of the opportunities for large quantity, non-returnable sales in non-bookstore markets.
Many independent publishers ignore non-trade sales because they do not know where to start selling. Their definition of non-trade marketing is selling books "outside of the bookstore." However, that only suggests where not to sell books; it offers no direction, insight or instruction about where or how to actually do it.
Self-publishing and online services, e-books, and digital demand printing are joined into a new and powerful sector that is transforming the industry. For industry professionals whose career satisfactions and livelihoods are bonded to the future of the book, this new sector offers a wild ride and a venturesome future.