I posted last week about a three-day brainstorming session convened to save Palo Alto-based Kepler's Books. Peter Turner had participated in that event, and he offered a helpful comment. Turner's perspective reminded me of a 2009 post inspired by Jason Pontin, editor of Technology Review.
Writing about periodicals, Pontin observed that “Neither resentment nor hope are business strategies.” As I said to Turner, that's tough love, but I think it’s a good perspective for bookstores, as well.
An interview with SIMBA Information's Michael Norris, conducted by Brian Howard of Book Business magazine, plainly addresses the bookstore conundrum. Asked about the symbiotic relationship between physical bookstores and online sales, Norris starts with the consumer:
"One of the solutions that can apply to chain and non-chain stores is to really focus on the user experience. The thing that I worry about with Barnes & Noble is that they have a tremendous asset in their stores, and their stores are exactly why the NOOK has done so well up to this point. They need to figure out ways to make the two divisions work more closely together, as opposed to working on an odd solution to separate the NOOK business from everything else."
Norris goes on to talk about the deal between Waterstone's and Amazon and what retailers who sell eBooks can do to compete. It's worth the full read, with a special place reserved for Norris's closing comment:
"I urge every retailer who does sell eBooks to buy one of their own eBooks and then buy the same or similar ebook from Amazon, then think outside of themselves and about what kind of experience is going to make people come back."
There may have been a bit of that going on in Palo Alto last weekend, but there needs to be more. Amazon is not going away.