Friday, December 02, 2005

Brick and Mortar Bookstores

It's one of those single-data-point observations, but the local Borders seems to have expanded its Magazines section and its Other Crap section (stationery, calendars, etc.) at the expense of Books, perhaps attempting a marginal retreat to a less online-threatened product mix.

It doesn't seem like a strategy that can be carried very far.

I continue to think that the sales tax collection gap is the most serious competitive disadvantage facing the brick and mortar bookstores. It would be interesting to know if they are faring better in the few states with no sales tax.

5 Comments:

At 2:40 PM, December 02, 2005, Blogger Maribeth said...

Do you think this is seasonal? People will need new calendars in a month. Also, people might be more likely to purchase stationery or calendars as gifts for people they don't know very well, rather than books.

As for magazines, the more glossy international magazines a bookstore has, the more I like it.

 
At 11:01 PM, December 02, 2005, Blogger Richard Mason said...

You might be right. Certainly the season is right for all the calendars and diaries and such.

On the other hand, they've moved a lot of shelving around. I think it's a semipermanent reorganization. I guess we'll find out for sure after the holidays.

 
At 10:01 PM, December 03, 2005, Blogger mountmccabe said...

That fits with what I saw the last time I went into a Borders, more random knick-knacks.

The most serious competitive disadvantage faced by B&M Bookstores is that they are near worthless as bookstores. I like wandering around good books, pulling out ones I want to read, looking at what's new... but constantly not finding what I want gets very frustrating.

These stores cannot have the necessary local warehouse space to hold enough books to have the right ones to satisfy me (and the other folks who are like me but want books that I don't.) Sure, they'll order stuff for me but... but why? How would that make sense?

The Seminary Co-op in Chicago is the only B&M bookstore I've ever been in that might could keep me happy; too bad it's near 2000 miles away.

When I break down and buy Pound's Cantos I'll go to Borders but for most normal reading it's combing used bookstores and Amazon or Powell's, thank you.

 
At 7:24 PM, December 04, 2005, Blogger Richard Mason said...

It's true that if you already know what you're looking for, it's easier to buy it online.

Ideally, an online search would tell you where the closest copy was, and you could make the choice to pick it up or have it delivered. Like pizza.

This is a no-brainer. You can do it with used books, more or less, on the Abebooks network. So why can't you do it with Borders and Barnes and Noble? Because (I think) they were always afraid to entangle their online divisions with their stores, because of the sales tax issue. This is an example of how the sales tax collection issue has far-reaching consequences.

 
At 7:13 PM, December 06, 2005, Blogger Joe said...

I also feel as though the people most inclined to read books and (maybe as a corollary) to buy books are younger people who are often students and often don't have so much disposable cash. With no actual evidence, my gut sense is that with acid-free paper, fancier covers, etc., the price of books has well outpaced the price of inflation over the last decade or so. Even during periods when I've been out of school, I'll take the relative inconvenience of the library.

 

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