Bookstores of the future

Most of the brick and mortar bookstores are closing. Those that are running are not making great profit.

So book lovers like me will have lesser and lesser options with more stores closing. In Bangalore where I live, I have seen certain stores still doing well. They are little specialized in the sense that they sell books that are not so easy to obtain.

Now Amazon has opened two stores in the US. Surprising to see this from an organization that grew on top of the internet backbone along with the bandwidth.

Jeff Bezos during his speech at the Recode Code conference (You can watch it here: few weeks ago touched upon this topic. He spoke about how these stores are different. He said that these stores are reinventing the browsing experience:

· Books that are kept face forward

· Curated collection based on data from to select the titles

· 5 Star rated books,

· Top 100 books

Jeff spoke about giving the buyer serendipity of wandering around and discovering wonderful books. He is very correct. We need to bring the readers back to bookstore and make them notice the world out there.

So why are the stores closing? In my opinion, it is the experience that one gets when they visit these stores.

Many of the stores expand beyond books like selling gifts and children accessories. Then they have café’s. Then slowly these stores become coffee shops who also sell gift items and also books. Sometimes, diversifying without understanding which business you are in is an over kill. This impacts the overall experience and keeps away serious readers as they get better experience online.

Second issue is the collection. Many a times the collection on non-fiction in the area of sciences, research and comics are not very good. Sometimes even the books are not kept in the right section. I understand the issue of inventory but I think that can be resolved creatively.

Third issue is due to the kind of folks who are hired to work there. You have employees who have no clue about what they are selling. They can only take you the sections, but can’t recommend or suggest anything. Our mobiles can do a better job. Bookstores are the places of undiscovered knowledge. It is like exploring different places with the ability to find out something that we didn’t know.

To be really successful, we should have folks who are passionate about reading. Employees who are passionate will ensure that serendipity happens when people walk into the stores.

Where do we get such people? We should flip the switch here, by hiring those who are work in research to use the store as place of experimentation and learning, budding authors, passionate readers who would like to help other readers discover knowledge and happiness.

Also think about specialized stores. I read few weeks ago about an exclusively comics reading and lending library at Mumbai.

Thinking along that lines, we can have bookstores that specialize in culinary skills which can conduct special cooking sessions, chef meets, gathering of likeminded folks etc. This can be a huge hit in India with the growing TV viewership of programs like Master Chef.

So I think the bookstores can be revived with what Amazon is doing in terms of curation, hiring a different set of people and specializing into certain areas.

I would love to hear your views…

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