I was chatting with a few co-workers this past week about the future of text. Everyone knows that the publishing industry is, at this time, struggling to find ways to maintain profits, even as demands for media and information (usually for free) continue to rise. So – the question occurred, what will a bookstore look like in 40 years?
Current bookstores (Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Borders, etc…) are all massive stores with thousands of titles in stock, but they face two problems there. The first is that rents on such buildings are extremely expensive to maintain in terms of not only renting the actual building, but also staffing and stocking the buildings. The second is that the public is largely buying online now, preferring the convenience of having items shipped to their homes.
As our discussion ranged over the problems facing conventional bookstores, we began to shape a guess at the bookstore of the future. Imagine a shop about the size of a current Ben&Jerry’s, or Wetzel’s Pretzels, or any other small shop in any mall. Add in an Apple Store type of boutique atmosphere, and in the corner, a few industrial style book printers.
What we came up with was essentially a small storefront which sells e-readers or whatever the next iteration of the e-reader is (see: nook, kindle, kobo, etc…) as its sole product. The customers would purchase the e-readers and then purchase their books through the electronic store, rather than purchasing physical copies. If the customer wanted a physical copy, then they would walk over to one of the printing machines in the back and print off a copy of the book they wanted.
While there are still many people who want actual paper copies of books, those numbers have been declining. Digital content, smaller storefronts, and print-on-demand capability seems to be the way of the future. What I can hope for is that at least the smaller, independent, niche bookstores survive so I can still find print when I want it.
- Does The Independent Bookstore Have A Future? (treehugger.com)
- The Future of Bookstores: Lead-gen, not Dead Trees (gaborcselle.com)
- Barnes & Noble CEO Sends Letter to Shareholders (eon.businesswire.com)
- Bookstores Should Copy Best Buy’s Approach (jwikert.typepad.com)