As we watch the big-box Borders close its retail bookstores, it gives us pause (and some, anxiety) about the post-print world. I had to ask, why would Borders have to shut down while Barnes & Noble stays open?
In a post-print world, there are signs that Barnes & Noble could be closing its doors too. Excerpt from Atlantic: “…the book business is in a period of change so dynamic that any outcome is possible, from an era of exciting expansion to a precipitous decline in sales at brick-and-mortar stores that undermines the revenue base of publishing.” Excerpt from the New York Times: What Barnes & Noble did report wasn’t pretty. The company lost $59 million in the quarter, or $1.04 a share. Analysts on average had expected a smaller loss of 91 cents a share. Despite a rise in revenue, thanks to higher online and digital sales, Barnes & Noble was hurt by the liquidation of more than 200 Borders stores as part of that retailer’s bankruptcy. Sales at Barnes & Noble stores open at least one year fell by 2.9 percent in the quarter. As books become increasingly post-print: Ebooks at Barnes and Noble Outselling Printed Books 3 to 1; Amazon e-books now outselling print books; “Sales of electronic books are expected to hit nearly one billion dollars in the United States this year and to triple by 2015”
When the world changes because of technology, economy can seem slow to catch up. Dreaming outside-of-the-box, there could be a whole different future for brick-and-mortar. Where does R&D (research and development) happen in the bookselling world? Not enough, I’d say. Here’s an idea: what if bookstores were reconfigured to be spaces for co-working during the day and community in the evenings, where people can gather for work and for play? Brick-and-mortar physical spaces still can be that gathering place where people roam and browse for content. In a post-print age, that content is not housed in rows of bookshelves. Content is people and conversations.