Showrooming as a Solution to Save Bookstores

By Deane Barker on January 17, 2014

So, this guy has a plan to save bookstores that involves printing hard-copies right in the store with the Espresso Book Machine.

Now imagine, if you will, a customer walks into a local bookstore. He or she browses through a selection of books, finds something interesting, then walks over to the machine. You just scan the barcode, swipe a credit card, and the machine spits out a brand new, hot-off-the-press book, especially for you, in just 4 minutes. Or if you’re in a hurry, you just buy a printed book right off the shelf like you normally would, and the machine will simply print a new one to replace it.

Now, I don’t mind this idea, but its weakness is that it depends on selling a hardcopy, which, let’s face it, fewer and fewer people want.  To counter this, the guy has another idea about browsing for ebooks on tablets in stores…but who would do that?  Why not just do that from home?

We need to leverage the value of physically being in the store.  The fact that I am there has intrinsic, unique value.

Better idea: browse the hardcopy books in the store.  Then purchase them as ebooks, using a store’s kiosk or your mobile device.  Some kind of code, or geo-location lookup, would give the store credit for the purchase.

So, I go to my local bookstore.  I get all the benefits of being in a bookstore – the ambiance, the coffee, and camaraderie of being among other book lovers, the tactile feel of the books, the dazzling array of covers, the ability to pick up a book and page through it, etc.

I find a book I want.  Using an app on my phone, I scan the bar code, Amazon sells it to me and delivers it to my Kindle, and the store I was in gets a cut of the profit of the book.

Best of all worlds: I get to be in a bookstore (yay!), I get the book as an ebook (double yay!), and the bookstore gets compensated for the service of helping a publisher sell a book (yays all around!).  Essentially, bookstores would be showrooming for Amazon on purpose (like Bonobos does for itself).

I think that plan is a winner.

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  1. Amazon, somewhere else — whatever. The venue wasn’t as important as the basic concept that a physical showroom gets remuneration for helping a company sell a digital resource.

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