- The Morning Coffee – 7 July 2014
- The Problem of Reinventing the Bookstore
- Next Kobo Aura Rumored to be Dust & Water Proof
Posted: 06 Jul 2014 06:10 PM PDT
In spite of the 4th of July weekend, my reading list is long this morning. The list includes an explanation from the WSJ on how one null result is more than another null result, Hugh Howey on unions, doubts about the value of teaching all students to code, and more.
Posted: 06 Jul 2014 12:53 PM PDT
Bookshops are the platypus of the retail world. Not only are they part of an industry with a unique obsession with and attachment to its products, but they are also one of the types of retailers which are the most susceptible to losing business to online competitors.
Like music, the discoverabilty of books often works better online than in stores, and that has the potential to make booksellers as redundant as music stores (which have closed in record numbers both in the US and around the globe).
A month-old article came across my desk again today, and since I didn’t have the time to write about it when I first saw it I thought it was worth dusting off and commenting upon. The article was published in the More Intelligent Life magazine in the May/June issue, and it offers three different takes on how to reinvent the bookstore.
There are several flaws in the designs, and there are also a couple flaws in the concept brief shared with the design firms:
The size of the proposed store and the budget are not unreasonable, but I for one question whether such a broad selection of books is practical. Also, did you notice what is not mentioned?
The answer is simple: used books. In this day and age used books are simply another category on Amazon.com next to new and digital, and a redesigned bookstore should at least consider the possibility that it will also sell used books. No one knows how big that market is, but it does exist and thus should be addressed.
But other than that, it’s not a bad concept. Here’s the first of the three designs, from Gensler:
And here’s the second concept design, from 20.20:
And finally, Burdifilek and Coffey Architects crafted a design which I would call a temple of books. It’s more akin to an Apple store than anything a bookseller would be able to afford to build:
Besides the lack of any mention of used books, two of the three designs also left out any mention of POD. I am familiar with past suggestions to base a redesigned bookstore around an Espresso Book Machine, and I think those older designs may actually be more practical and realistic than the three professional designs quoted above.
Print on demand might not be a major source of revenue for publishers now, but the bookstores and libraries that own an Espresso Book Machine report that they do a lot of business with authors who bring in their own work to be printed and bound. And at the very least POD has the potential of enabling a bookseller to more closely match the selection of their online competitors.
So what did you think of the designs?
I found the descriptions very pretty, but I was disappointed by the lack of detail on the bookstores’s business models. Only one of the designs really addressed that point, and what they propose just doesn’t sound practical. The real point of this exercise was to find ways for booksellers to make more money, not just design a beautiful mausoleum.
And just to be clear, I do think small booksellers can survive if they adapt. IMO they need to one, offer competitive prices, and two, sell more stuff online. While many bookstores are already doing both, this point is frequently missed in debates about the future of bookselling (which seems to mainly focus on how to save the physical stores).
If, as recent research suggests, book buying is moving online then bookstores need to follow. Amazon might have the majority of online book sales in the US but that doesn’t mean booksellers can’t compete on either price or service.
That is certainly what I am seeing in other types of retail.
I recently got back into model trains, and after I had been buying locomotives and other stuff online for a couple months I realized that I was actually supporting an independently owned hobby shop – just not in my area. One of the hobby shop I buy from is based in Indiana because they offer prices and service within range of major retailers like Amazon.com. I know some might suggest that I support the nearest hobby shop, but it’s a half hour drive away and charges full retail (which is sometimes twice what I pay online).
I know some will be disappointed that I am cheap and shirking my duty to my local store, but I feel that driving for an hour to pay full retail is simply too much to ask. I want to shop online, and sellers need to be there for me to find.
This post has now gone incredibly off topic, so let me close it with a question. What do you think is the future of bookstores?
Posted: 06 Jul 2014 08:39 AM PDT
The rumor about the next Kindle Paperwhite (Ice Wine) may have come to naught but I expect we’ll have better luck with the latest rumor about Kobo.
The font of all leaks, @evleaks, shared a new rumor about the next Kobo Aura last week:
Evan Nelson Blass, the man behind @evleaks, is saying that Kobo’s next ereader will be protected against dust and will be able to handle being dunked into a meter of water (details). If true, the Aura H2O will be as tough as the Pocketbook Aqua (released in Europe in March) and somewhat more in extreme reading situations than the existing Kindle Paperwhite (or Kobo’s current ereaders, for that matter).
I have no evidence to support this rumor (no filings at the FCC, for example), but I tend to think it is true.
For one thing, waterproofing an ereader is a logical next step. One common selling point for E-ink screens is that they can be used in full sunlight, and with the Aura H2O Kobo will be able to expand on that sales pitch by promising that the new ereader will be completely safe to use at the beach, lake, or anywhere else where it might get wet.
What’s more, Kobo isn’t the only one to think of it. Pocketbook has the Aqua (on sale in Europe for 109 euro), and if you’re willing to buy from an aftermarket supplier you can also get a Kindle Paperwhite.
Waterfi has been selling waterproofed mobile devices for years now, and as you have probably read in the past few weeks this company also carries a waterproof Kindle which is good to a depth of 200 ft. They’ve offered the Kindle since at least last May, but recently sent one to TechCrunch to review.
Waterfi’s process involves coating the internal electronics, while Kobo is more likely to use a more traditional route of sealing the case from intrusion by water and dust. But no matter how you cut it, this adds to the cost of the ereader. Waterfi adds $90 to the price of the Kindle Paperwhite 3G, and Pocketbook is charging a premium price for a basic ereader.
Kobo will probably have to add at least $20 to $30 to the retail price of the Aura H2O to cover the additional costs. If you want to use your ereader in risky conditions it is probably worth the expense.
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