My son treated me to a nice meal out on the town yesterday. He's constantly busy with college and work which cuts down on our visits so I see these rare moments as a chance to reconnect in the midst of my own hectic life. As we waited for our food to arrive, we caught up on each other's lives. Then the conversation turned to one we almost always have when we get together...books.
My son is a born book lover. I read to him daily when he was growing up and it has instilled in him a passion for the written word just like his mother's. But the way we indulge in that singular passion takes different paths. While I love the smell and feel of the hard bound book, my son indulges in a more techy manner of reading via the iPad and yesterday's conversation made me think about the dubious future of brick and mortar bookstores.
Brad Plumer of the WONKBLOG has written a post about the trouble Barnes and Noble is having with falling sales of their Nook and increasing competition from Amazon. You can read his post here.
When the Borders bookstore filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and eventually closed it 399 stores, I wondered then what would happen to the traditional bookstore? My son and I spent so much time at our local Borders before it closed they should have called me their silent partner. Before them, our favorite spot was inside the Waldenbooks at the mall. But the rise of ereaders and digital books took its toll on those stores and now all we are left with is a troubled Barnes & Noble.
Mr. Plumer believes there are a couple of options available to bookstores to help strengthen their position in the retail industry. One is to offer a special club membership where members could have first access to literary events and hobnob with authors before talks, book signings, etc. That is certainly something I would be interested in.
The other option is actually being offered in some bookstores right now. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble could offer their clientele the option to purchase print on demand books from an Expresso Book Machine. I had never heard of this before but you can read about it here. This would allow even self-published and ebook writers to connect with people like me who love the smell and feel of a real book.
What do you think? Would YOU pay for a bookstore membership to get a chance to chat with your favorite author? What about selecting a book title and experiencing the excitement as it rolls off the press before your very eyes. I'd pay for that.
And my son? Well, he's on his own...;~)