Jag Venugopal's Blog

July 24, 2011

Can a bookstore compete with the Internet?

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 8:00 am

Richard Nash, writing in CNN, attempts to explain the reasons for Borders’ failure, and tries to derive lessons from it. He writes:

“Bookstores can and should be sites for this conversation. Increasingly, the good ones are places where people seeking deeper engagement with their culture and society choose to congregate. They are offering language classes, reading groups, singles nights, writing workshops, self-publishing solutions.”

The problem, though, is that it is oftentimes difficult to get many people with the same interest into the same suburban bookstore. I might like a certain genre of nonfiction, but I doubt that there are scores of people in my town with the same taste in reading. However, on the Internet, I have absolutely no problem in finding kindred souls with the same likes and dislikes. What’s more, I depend on their opinions and reviews for many of my book purchases.

The problem is this… the Internet can offer all of what Richard describes, and do it better. Large numbers of interested readers can coalesce around shared interests. And while web sites may not offer  the immediacy of a face-to-face conversation, many reviews and opinions posted on the better sites have benefited from their authors being forced to write, rather than speak extempore. Have we reached the potential of the Internet in creating social networks around readers? Absolutely not. Will we get there? Absolutely yes.

For bookstores to survive and thrive, they need to provide an experience that cannot be provided over  the Internet. I’m currently at a loss to think about one potential example. So, it appears, are many book purchasers.

 

 

 

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2 Comments »

  1. Dinner parties, singles nights, writing workshops, wine tastings… This isn’t even potential stuff, this is stuff that’s all happening right now.

    Comment by Richard Nash — July 24, 2011 @ 8:15 am | Reply

  2. Ummm… writing workshops? I could go to my local community college. Wine tastings? The local wine superstore. Dinner parties and singles nights? Didn’t see them at my local Borders, and don’t see the value of them; perhaps because I’m a middle-aged, married curmudgeon.

    The point is, I need to see something that would compel me to go to my local bookstore. The above, I can get elsewhere. Besides, even if there was a mom-and-pop bookstore in my neighborhood (there isn’t), how would I buy an ebook from them?

    Comment by Jag — July 24, 2011 @ 6:55 pm | Reply


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