Hello independent bookstore owner. I am Trav. I believe in what you do and what you add to my community. I am your customer… and I have tools. You need to wake up and start participating, so I know you’re still there. Here is one thing all independent bookstore owners need to be aware of and learn how to do:
make your inventory public and accessible from mobile devices.
I use a few bard code scanning app. Currently, Red Laser is my favorite. I was in a big-box home improvement store the other day pricing closet organization systems. Up by the registers, I picked up a $17 book on closet makeovers. It seemed to be just what I needed. I was curious what else was out there, so I scanned it. Here are the results:
See that? There at the bottom? It should list everywhere that I could pick up this book locally. I only see some big-box chain stores and… my wonderful local library system. They understand what’s happening. You need to also.
These things aren’t too hard to learn and don’t cost tons of cash to implement. Bookstores of all sizes need to follow and study folks like LibraryThing (local books app and libanywhere app) and the scanning apps. Just doing that much is the surest way to remain relevant.
Not ten. Ten is too many. But five is doable. I was shopping this weekend and stopped in a few local indie stores. They had nice tables showing “NY Times Bestsellers” and the like, all of which was great, but didn’t help me at all. So here I offer you five things that I want from my local bookstore. I’m hoping that, as a bookseller, you don’t mind learning new things and I’d like to encourage you to “hire a geek’. Book nerds and geeks are becoming great friends these days.
1. Keep event calendar online. Make it mobile-friendly. Better yet, use LibraryThing. Things have changed too much in the past 10 years to keep your book-signings and book-groups calendar held captive on the wall behind the register. Have it on your site, add it to LibraryThing local and please please please KEEP IT UP TO DATE.
2. Use Twitter correctly. Don’t give it to a kid. Do it yourself. Learn. It works. There is value there. You should have a Twitter presence before a Facebook page. Seriously. Yes, the part-time college kid can tweet, blog, text and email all with one hand… simultaneously. But they don’t have your working knowledge of your customers, the authors and what books you need to move. Folks on Twitter do want to follow their local bookstore and they want to talk to you and they want you to pass along calendar events on Twitter. Please please don’t just post links to your website or Facebook page. That’s missing the point and customers will not respond.
3. Have a working knowledge of digital options. Work deals with publishers. Offer bundles. If I have a eBook version, give me a reason to come to your store. Digital books are here to stay. Don’t be afraid. Work it into your product knowledge. If you sell books by local authors partner with them to run the text through free converters and bundle it with the printed product. Find small publishers who will work with you so you can offer bundle and discount deals to add value to the book you physically have in your store. At a minimum, you’ll begin to see what all the craziness is about and begin to start figuring out solutions for the indistry.
4. Know the value of a printed book. Don’t romanticize it for me. Know why I should buy that hunk of gorgeously bound paper at your store. With every purchase I make I weigh the pros and cons of print vs. digital. There are reasons I choose some categories as digital and others I will always buy the print version. You should know these, for yourself and your customers. There are reasons I will drive across town to buy a book. You should know them. Value is more than just price.
5. Organize your community. You should be in touch with the pulse of readers in your area, both online and off. Do you help start bookgroups? Of course you do. You have good bookstore. Ever hosted an “online event”, such as a book group or author chat? You should. It would make you a great bookstore. There is no reason your shop can’t become the center of the book universe for your town, both online and off.