(Image from Unshelved.)
We are in the middle of global distribution's creep. We're seeing corporations delivering rock bottom prices & we're seeing Big Box models like Wal-Mart & Amazon topping even that. Now on one hand, low prices are low prices, right? Hard to argue with that. On another, maybe-- probably-- the Big Box retail models aren't tenable. All that aside, the reality is that Big Players are putting the squeeze on your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-M...er, Bookstore. So-- how do the Indies cope?
Well in one big way: knowing what they are talking about. Corporate models are kind of renowned for being soulless machines-- & while I'm sure there are a lot of clerks who know their business, the thing Indies have going in Spades is Book People. If you go into your Local Bookstore & ask for a recommendation, or for help finding something, or for...well, for anything-- you have a small cadre ready to hand-feed you answers. These aren't people just cashing in on a buck; they are people who Want To Be There. Heck, some Local Bookstores even offer hand delivery if you are in the neighborhood.
This is the future, I think, of brick & mortar. People. Knowledgeable people. A big bookstore is going to have the standards: the big sellers. That is just how they work. If, on the other hand, you want something off the beaten path? If you want something that isn't your everyday fluff? Your Friendly Neighborhood Bookstore is the place. Not only can you go there & find copies of the usual suspects, but you'll find that the staff keeps on hand the books they feel passionately about. Heck, so what if Vurt is too small a book for most big chains to keep in stock-- if a staff member at your Local Bookstore cares about that book, he'll keep it on hand. & he will try to hand sell it to you. The strip from Unshelved above is a perfect example of this-- if a customer walks into Shakespeare & Co. saying "I really liked The Da Vinci Code..." the staff-- well, me-- can walk them over to Stephenson comma Neal & say "Why don't you give Cryptonomicon a try?" & that, THAT, is the future of Brick & Mortal. The ability to have specialists-- who most importantly have Opinions-- recommend something to you. So that is my challenge, I think. Next time you go to a bookstore-- ask for a piece of advice. Ask for a recommendation...& then buy it & read it. Then go back & let the bookseller know what you thought. Hey! How about that. You are part of a community!