My son Cody's orthodontic appointment on Tuesday finished early afternoon, but he'd been checked out of school before lunch and we were both hungry. We enjoyed some sandwiches and the chance to talk, just the two of us. We realized as we left the diner that we wouldn't get him back to school in time to finish out the day. With the angst of rushing back lifted, we decided to spend the last forty-five minutes together walking around Barnes and Noble.
We had no intention of buying anything.
Cody and I started in the Young Adult shelves, since we both enjoy that genre. From there, he wandered toward the Sci-fi and Fantasy books, and I headed for Literature and Fiction.
Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus before. When I love a cover like this, I open the book and read the first paragraph. If it hooks me too, I buy the book. Here's line one of The Night Circus:
The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl.
I was nearing the end of the first chapter when Cody approached carrying a board game. He'd found it when passing one of the tables down the center of the aisle. It was the game's title that had caught his attention: Carcassonne.
We bought the game Carcassonne, which turned out to be very fun to play. In just two days it's become a family favorite. (Barnesandnoble.com does not list this particular game, but it does sell the expansion kits here. And here's another link to the game we bought.)
As Cody and I drove home, we talked about how we'd never have found either of our purchases unless we'd been in Barnes and Noble today. That led to a conversation about the fate of book stores in a future of electronic books. We have several Kindles in our house. They're fantastic! I love being able to download a book in seconds. It's great to have my personal library in one, slim device that weighs nothing compared to the stack of books I'd have to lug around, without the Kindle. But if book stores go away, how will we wander around and discover our next gem-of-a-book read?
The Internet is vast. With all the social media sites to spend time on, we'll have to carve more computer time out of the day to watch book trailers or read book/author blogs to find recommended books. Someone needs to come up with a better way.
I envision a book store of the future that showcases book-like pamphlets. Publishers could incorporate in the marketing budget the book's pamphlet, a paperback booklet with the book's cover art on front. Inside will be a sample of the book, preferably the first chapter. A section could include the author bio and maybe a short interview, etc. The book store would have shelves and shelves of these pamphlets, allowing customers the enjoyment of finding those books that speak to them, that pique their interest. There could be a rare book section where relics from the past -- actual paper books -- would be sold. Signed copies would become a treasure to acquire. And the store could include a coffee shop and an art gallery, and have live music to entice patrons to stop in.
But wait? How would the store make any money??
When a customer is ready to buy the e-books s/he wants, based on the pamphlets, the customer pulls out his or her Kindle/Nook/iPad/reader-of-the-future. By logging on to the book store's exclusive server and downloading the books from there, the customer receives reward points of some sort that can be redeemed on future purchases. The store could make it worth the customers while to buy "from them" rather than to download later from a site like Amazon, etc. Hell, Amazon should be the first company to open the book stores of the future! Start a trend.
I don't want book stores to disappear. I think they serve a real and viable purpose, and possess an atmosphere unlike any other retailer. Barnes and Noble needs to evolve with the e-book revolution, or they will find themselves experiencing Border Books' fate. And that, for me, would be sad, indeed.