Where goes Starbucks, there goes the plan for bookstores.
Did you ever think you’d pay 5 bucks for a cup of coffee?
This past month at the I heard an editor use the comparison of Romance Writersinstant coffee versus brewed coffee when discussing eBooks and print books. She pointed out that when instant coffee first appeared everyone thought brewed coffee was dead. Brewed coffee is still around. Her point: print won’t die because eBooks are here. I agree. But I take it a step further. Not only is brewed coffee still here, Starbucks appeared. They made buying a cup of coffee an ‘experience’. Really, is a cup of coffee at Starbucks that much better than McDonald’s? But you can’t get that extra-mocha, whatever, whatever, whatever (I get decaf, black, I’m boring) at McDonalds. And it’s like, way cool, to be able to stand there and say all those words, like I really know what it means and really like this stuff. I’m too intimidated. We used to chew the instant coffee from our LRRP meals when I was in Special Forces while we were deployed to stay awake. I think I might order some grounds next time I’m at a Starbucks. Of course, I never go there and there’s isn’t one here on the island so . . .
I digress. So Starbucks blossomed across the country, like zombies with aprons. You can’t cross a street without hitting one. But then the economy, like, collapsed. Bummer. And people have had to cut back. And, well, $5 for a cup of coffee, started to seem like, of all things, an extravagance. So Starbucks has been hurting (join the club).
Let’s talk bookstores. First there was Amazon. Mail order book retailer. There were grumbles when it first appeared on the horizon back in the days when men were men and the sheep ran scared. It took a slice of the market. B&N also opened an on-line store. Overall, though, the brick and mortar stores and the on-line stores co-existed, much like, well, the Borg and the human race.
But then came eBooks. A murmur in the distance as long ago as, well, January. Now it’s a roar. Borders isn’t solvent. B&N is for sale. Indies, first besieged by the chains, then the on-line retailers, are now attacked on all fronts and those hardy few who have survived so far, must feel like: Can’t a human get a break?
Back to Starbucks. Some smart people over there, right? So what do they have planned to combat their eroding sales? They’ve come up with a two-pronged approach, which has a single concept at its core: go local.
It seems counter-intuitive for a national chain to go local. But what is becoming apparent in retail is that niche is the future. For Starbucks, they’re going to serve alcohol. But not Bud or wine in the carton. They’re serving local brews and local wines. And the décor of each store, rather than being cookie-cutter same, is going to feature local artists and furniture. They’re going to cater to, well, the local people. They’re reinventing the ‘experience’.
I submit where goes Starbucks, there might be a path for bookstores to survive. Serve plenty of alcohol. Well, no. Well, actually, why not? Become a gathering place for like-minded people. But the real thing is: Niche is the future. Not only will indies have to adapt to their area, but for chains like B&N to survive, they must specialize and localize. One size does not fit all. All books do not fit all.
The is a lifeline. Books will be printed in the stores. So anyone can walk in with a thumb drive and print out their Great American Novel and give it to mom and pop and sell three copies to friends who really like them and put up with them. But it’s a money maker. Rack local authors. People who would come in and hang out in the store every so often and talk to readers and interact. Rack books about the area. So if someone wants to know about kayaking in Puget Sound, because they happen to be in a bookstore in a town on the edge of Puget Sound, they can find a book about it. We have to break away from the single buyer in NY determining what goes in every bookstore around the country. We have to get back to local buyers, who have the pulse of the area, who know the readers, determining what goes on the shelves. Make apps where you can sell eBooks by local authors and about the local area. Mirror your physical store on-line.
I’ve led blogging about the future of publishing with eBooks and bookstores, because the key to the future is understanding that the retail outlets for books has fundamentally changed this year. When the outlet changes, the business has to changes. And that means us, publishers and authors. So the next posts will cover what we have to do to not only survive, but flourish.
So the next post is for publishers. We must become like Jean-Luc. When the Borg had him.
Last Novel Writer’s and Warrior Writer Workshop for 2010. A few spots still available.
Posted on November 1, 2010, in The Publishing Borg, WDWPUB and tagged blog, books, business, Change, eBooks, ePublishing, Future, Technology, Technology and Publishing, The Espresso Book Machine, The Future of Publishing, The Publishing Borg, writer, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.