Earlier this week Joe Wikert completed his six-part series of posts (this links to the final piece, which has links to the first five parts) about how brick-and-mortar bookstores could better compete with online retailers (aka Amazon.com).
Taken as a whole, I’m not sure his suggestions would necessarily fix all the struggles of traditional bookstores, but some of these are really worth considering.
One of the suggestions I like is about creating a Chacha sort of website for answers about books that customers could access from kiosks in the store. (And outside of the store as well.) That would be a pretty cool way of getting info about books—especially more technical or travel guide-ish titles—and would address some of the bookselling issues at the chain stores.
Not to pick on the two big chains (though it’s obvious that’s who Wikert has in mind with this suggestion), but it’s as evident as a late-season Mets collapse that most employees at B&N and Borders are more “clerk” than “bookseller.” (This is something I plan on writing a long piece about either tomorrow or next week, since it ties into my ideas about the gulf between publishers and readers.) When I worked at independent bookstores (including Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, which is praised in the comments section of the first post in Wikert’s series) the staff knew more about books than almost anyone I’ve met since. The group knowledge was unbelievable, and the books I found out about from my colleagues affected the rest of my life and career.
But it’s true that this isn’t the norm anymore. (Though it is at a number of indie stores.) And Wikert’s suggested site would be a cool resource.
Not so sure about his idea for a loyalty program (sounds a lot like an idea from the case study on Harrah’s casinos I read for business school last year), and the idea about selling used copies along with new is actually a practice that can be found at a number of independent stores, including Third Place, which is one of the greatest stores in the country.
The big drawback of this series is that it’s not looking at bookstores as a whole, it’s really only considering how B&N and Borders can compete with Amazon. So a host of issues/challenges are left out entirely.
That said, the last suggestion of widgets and browser add-ons is pretty interesting. And something that IndieBound could easily do for its members . . .
“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .
With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .
In Conversations, we find ourselves again in the protagonist’s conscious and subconscious, which is mostly likely that of Mr. César Aira and consistent with prototypical Aira style. This style never fails because each time Aira is able to develop a. . .
You are not ashamed of what you do, but of what they see you do. Without realizing it, life can be an accumulation of secrets that permeates every last minute of our routine . . .
The narrative history of. . .
Literature in translation often comes with a certain pedigree. In this little corner of the world, with so few books making it into this comforting nook, it is often those of the highest quality that cross through, and attention is. . .
Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn is a set of two loosely interlinked novellas that play with narrative and the construction of character. Ably translated by Ann Goldstein, Mr. Gwyn plays some subtle metafictional games as Baricco delves into what it means. . .
I must admit upfront that I went into reading Saadat Hasan Manto’s Bombay Stories almost entirely blind. I have not read Salman Rushdie. I have read, perhaps, two short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I might shamefully add that I really. . .
Throughout his work The Gray Notebook, Josep Pla mentions many different authors, some of whom have inspired him to pick up a pen. One of them is Marcel Proust. Even though Pla normally prefers nonfiction, he lauds the French novelist. . .
On that September 11th I had a conversation with a professor friend who was teaching a creative writing class that evening. He questioned, “What can I possibly teach when all of this has happened?” While the dismay and grief were. . .
In a story of two emotionally distant people, Japanese author Takashi Hiraide expertly evokes powerful feelings of love, loss, and friendship in his novel The Guest Cat. The life of the unnamed narrator and his wife, both writers, is calm. . .