The Future of the Bookstore

Table of Content

The emergence of digital reading devices and online book sales has presented an unexpected obstacle for traditional bookstores. The future of these stores is uncertain due to the popularity of e-books and Amazon’s market dominance. Nevertheless, by targeting specific genres, catering to distinct demographics, and cultivating a distinctive ambiance, bookstores have the opportunity to thrive in this evolving environment.

According to data from BookScan, the sales of print books have decreased by 22% since 2008. This decline has sparked discussions among literary agents, authors, marketing managers, and booksellers about the future of bookstores. The primary concern now is not only establishing bookstores but also finding strategies to sustain them amidst these trends. Sam Hancock, digital product manager at HarperCollins, predicts that digital books will exceed print titles in sales in Britain by 2015 and potentially even earlier in America.

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Every time a store closes, online purchasing becomes the more convenient option remaining for some of its customers. Although the rise of “e-tailers” poses a threat, loyal book readers worldwide have mitigated this trend. Some readers enjoy the tactile experience of holding a book, while others value the personalized experience provided by a handheld novel like the Bradford 2. Nonetheless, there are individuals who still adhere to traditional bookshops. However, one significant challenge faced by paper books is the growing accessibility of free online literature.

The Internet has a dual role when it comes to publishing – it acts as a facilitator and also a threat. It has made it extremely convenient to reach a wide audience, but at the same time, readers now expect to access information and entertainment without paying. Online platforms like YouTube, The Pirate Bay, and other digital libraries have thousands of free titles available. Particularly among the younger generation, this trend has contributed to the decline of the book industry’s progress and expansion.

According to architect Alex Lifschutz, it is crucial for a successful bookstore to enhance the “experience of buying books.” Lifschutz, who is designing the new flagship bookshop for Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London, suggests various approaches. These include creating small, tranquil spaces surrounded by books, as well as larger spaces where people can spend time reading. Additionally, he recommends larger yet intimate areas for author talks on a range of subjects such as books, literature, science, travel, and cookery. Lifschutz emphasizes the importance of atmosphere, highlighting the need for vibrant exteriors, eye-catching entrances, and the inclusion of a bar and cafe.

The decision to include cafes in bookstores and position them on the top floor is a logical and strategic move. According to Lifschutz, the presence of a cafe on the top floor will attract shoppers and entice them to explore the different levels of the store, ultimately leading to longer visits and increased spending. This concept is reminiscent of food courts in shopping malls. Bradford 3 Although there are various ways to enhance the bookstore experience, only a few of them are easily monetized. It is widely agreed upon that bookstores should transform into cultural destinations where customers are willing to pay for entertainment such as concerts, films, or talks.

The online shopping experience needs to be intelligent and worthwhile, while the physical space for browsing should be comfortable. However, there is a debate on whether it is justified to charge customers for shopping in a physical store, given how common it is for shoppers to browse in shops only to make their purchases online later. Victoria Barnsley, the head of HarperCollins, believes that charging customers might be a viable solution as she points out that only 35% of fiction in Britain is purchased in physical stores. However, some argue that forcing customers to pay just to shop could discourage them from visiting the stores altogether. These skeptics believe that charging customers for the shopping experience is not the right approach to adapt to the decrease in in-store sales.

Instead of asking for payment upon entry, stores could offer a price match guarantee with online retailers, promoting more purchases. An alternative suggestion could be implementing a membership program similar to those found in museums and other cultural establishments. In contrast to loyalty cards that merely offer discounts and other minor perks, club memberships could grant members priority access to events (such as talks, literary workshops, and retreats) as well as access to a dedicated lounge where members can socialize, enjoy food and drinks, and meet authors before events. Various membership options could be available to cater to the needs of children and students.

To ensure the survival and success of bookstores, it is important for them to embrace and celebrate all types of books – rare, second-hand, digital, and self-printed editions. Moreover, digital and hybrid readers must be given the option to buy e-books in physical stores. Additionally, aspiring authors should have access to self-printing book machines. In the United States, bookstores are starting to recognize this as a significant source of income. Bradley Graham, owner of Politics & Prose – a well-known independent bookstore in Washington DC – confirms that the quality of books printed using self-printing machines now matches those produced by major publishing houses such as Bradford 4. Politics & Prose offers customers the opportunity to lease an Espresso Book Machine for their use.

Online shops have become a common strategy for modern stores seeking to attract customers away from other online retailers. However, there has been an increasing fascination with “indie” novels among publishers, agents, and readers recently, which has brought attention to small bookstores. Back to the Books in Manitou Springs, Colorado is one such store that focuses on indie works and surprisingly has achieved success. The store offers customers a wide selection of novels written by independent and sometimes local authors, eliminating major publishers from the equation.

Renaud has implemented various innovative strategies to sustain business, including the creation of an online platform with more competitive rates compared to other online retailers. Additionally, a dynamic pricing system has been incorporated which automatically adjusts book prices based on sales. The future of bookstores will require significant efforts as they face a daunting task ahead, although the exact nature and magnitude of obstacles remain uncertain.

It may be challenging for small independent bookstores to fulfill the requirements of providing knowledgeable and personalized service, expertly curated inventory, well-designed spaces, and engaging cultural events.


  1. http://www. indiesunlimited. com/2012/09/24/indie-only-bookstores/
  2. http://www. ecolibris. net/bookstores_future. asp
  3. http://www. economist. com/blogs/prospero/2013/02/future-bookstore
  4. http://www. timesunion. com/local/article/Bookstore-s-future-Epilogue-or-a-new-chapter-3941285. php

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The Future of the Bookstore. (2016, Oct 27). Retrieved from

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