Thursday, July 21, 2011

People don't want books, they want reading.

There's an entrepreneurial adage that emerged in the last 10 years that goes, "don't sell anything that Amazon can deliver cheaper." That is, channels of distribution are changing. Retail, especially, is changing. Starting up a brick and mortar bookstore, music store, video store, makes little sense.*

But this doesn't mean people are not willing to spend money on books, music, movies, etc. Or that established retailers who stick to sound business planning will necessarily get hosed by online competitors. As Dennis Johnson of Moby Lives points out, big retailers are more likely to get hosed by their own bad decisions:
"If there’s anything to take away from the Borders story, it’s this: It doesn’t at all represent that fewer people want to buy print books. It represents that fewer big corporations want to sell them."
So why do these myths about the big bad Amazon wolf continue? I think it's because so many companies don't understand what business they're in. Borders, and to some extent Barnes & Noble, decided they were in the business of creating large, expensive retail space for physical things. What most of us know is that they were really selling a coffee-break-with-a-book.

The best thing about Borders was always those big comfy chairs, where you could browse at leisure through the topics of your choice, and maybe find something to buy. And get a cup of coffee and some crappy baked goods. And that experience is what made us remember them when it was time to go back and buy a birthday present for someone (great art books!) or entertain a child for a few minutes (the kids' section!).

And that experience is NOT something Amazon can offer.

*Of course there are always exceptions, especially if you're exploiting an emerging niche market.

HT: Norcross


Anonymous Friar Yid said...

I was more than a little annoyed to get my "Sorry valued customers, but we're leaving forever!" email from Borders. I wanted to write back, "Well, thanks so much for ruining all the other bookstores in town before you left!"

Seriously, fifteen years ago we had, besides the random Mom & Pop shops, easily 10+ minor chains all around town. Now the only one left is Books Inc along with a handful of indies.

Look what you've reduced us to, Borders! You're making people in their mid-20s rail about the way things were back in their day! Do your crimes have no end?

*shakes fist*

8/16/2011 1:11 PM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

:) Now get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers!

8/25/2011 9:11 AM  

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