Thursday, December 19, 2013

Technology and the Modern Bookstore--The Upside and the Downside...and the Surreal Side.

A lot of folks talk about showrooming at bookstores, and indeed, it is an issue at all retailers. That's when folks come in and make their selections, but then buy the books elsewhere. It's really not a new thing, but technology has made it much easier.

But there's another weird phenomenon that happens at the bookstore, which is when people come in to read the books and then leave without buying them. Needless to say, it's one of the reasons why a lot of bookstores didn't and still don't have lots of seating. It's our take that it's something we'll accept to provide convenience and comfort to our customers who do actually buy from us. But every bookstore has to make that decision.

I've thought it through in my head--the more your store is a destination, the more you can allow seating. The more heavily trafficked your location is, the more you're going to get non-shoppers taking the seats. In addition, it is likely that the real estate costs of those seats are much higher.

This week the modern variation of this was brought home to us, when a fellow came in with his e-reader (not a Kobo) and sat in the store for hours with his drink from home. Yes, note the thermos. Some of the e-reader reading is definitely a spin-off from the coffee shop next door when they run out of seats, but in this case, he definitely had scoped out Boswell as his lounge of choice. 

It threw us all off. Was he going to buy things at the end? No. Was he with other people who were shopping? No.

It was surreal.

That said, the other person in the picture using technology was not showrooming, but using the tablet's wish list to find books to buy from us. It's a good example of how technology is a double-edged sword.

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