Should all bookstores in the future have a resident cat? No, even though I would like to see that, I just used this picture because I am a cat person. What can bookstores do to survive? I can’t imagine a world without them, but it’s clear that most traditional bookstores are searching for ways to stay in business with the rise of ereaders and the ease of ordering books on the internet. It’s been fascinating for me to check out various independent bookstores and their websites to see how some have adapted. Some are really community centers, those with the space to allow groups to meet and talk books or listen to music and poetry readings. That’s a good thing, because I’m sure once people are in the store, it’s hard to walk away without a purchase. I love meeting my critique group at a bookstore, because what better place can someone go to be inspired to write?
I’m thinking further into the future though. I’ll continue to do much of my shopping at bookstores instead of ordering online, but what will draw other people in, those more casual readers? All of us traditionalists say we love the feel of a real book, but we are fast becoming the minority. I go to bookstores for the atmosphere, partly, but more so I can browse. Even once I get an ereader, I will still want to look for new books I haven’t heard about, and find out enough about them so that I can decide if I want to buy them. Imagine a very high tech bookstore. Wouldn’t it be great to have a something like the television news stations’ magic walls of information? Book covers displayed, where if you touched the screen, you could read the backcover blurb and then see the book trailer. You could choose whether you want to read a few pages, either on the screen or on your own ereader. Reviews don’t influence my particular buys, but if people are interested in those, they could be available as well. Essentially it would be like the Amazon model, but in a store atmosphere.
For example, I’d love to see children’s books grouped more by type of book rather than just alphabetical by author’s last name. I have a daughter who loves animal stories, so it would be convenient to see a section of middle grade books about animals. You could browse historical books, adventure books, school settings, and on and on. With computer screens , books could be in more than one category too. Once you found a book you liked, you could download it right there. Somehow it seems easier to browse when you see the larger images in front of you, rather than trying to get around on a small home computer screen. Physical inventory would be cut down, so more books could be shown, including those of newer authors who might not get a place in the bookstores of today.
A high tech bookstore would of course be very expensive to configure, but we can dream, can’t we? So I’d love to hear comments from others about why they go to bookstores and what they would like to see in the bookstore of the future.