Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

What you want? Baby, I got it. What you need? You know I got it.

I’ve started reading Seth Godin’s blog because, through my business course, I’ve learned enough to realize I don’t yet understand everything about marketing.

I caught this entry, and I don’t mean to come off as a chest-pounding proponent of revolution, but bear with me a moment.

According to above post, Borders discovered that, by displaying books with their covers out (rather than their spines), they increased their sales by 9%.

(of course, 9% in terms of the publishing industry is next to nothing, but that’s beside the point)

The Espresso machine is built to print a book in five minutes, flat. Consider that all that shelf space might instead be devoted to revolving banner advertisements with a limited number of books on hand, all of which can be previewed via the Espresso machines, as well as every other title in existence. Whatever you want, bookstores’ll have it.

And yes, certainly, some people browse books in the store, but I think the majority of perusal applies to magazines. So keep a periodicals section, while you devote all that glorious shelf space to 100 Espresso machines.

Certainly, it’d take a bit to get the venture started, but I have a feeling that’s how most bookstores are going to look in ten years. The fucker is pretty much a book vending machine:

This thing will take up less than five cubic feet, which, as many publishers know, is about the size of the remaindered rack in your average Borders or Barnes & Noble bookstore. What’s going to have to change, unfortunately, is how much publishers make via booksales. Because at this point, publishers are the equivalent of primaries; they’re in place so you know who’s good enough to buy books from, just like the primaries let you know who’s good enough to vote for president.

I’d say, in the future, it’s going to be more difficult to find the quality, but hey, you got to this blog, didn’t you? Just goes to show, somehow, it works out.


  1. Actually, a 9% increase could double profits. Easily.

  2. I think it’s only a matter of time before this because pretty standard. It’s so expensive to run a business right now, especially with gas costs and rising rents. Still, I’m not sure how great it’ll be for brick and mortar bookstores. I have always been a book browser. Going to the bookstore means spending the day at the bookstore. I tend to frequent stores like Tattered Cover here in Denver that understand that and make it easy to do this with their huge, comfy chairs and in-store cafe. I like to go to the bookstore and walk around–see what “hits me”–read a bit of it, be with book-loving brethren, then buy/not. While I don’t always buy books, I usually end up buying something–maybe just a box of notecards.

    I don’t know that I’d frequent bookstores that often if the books were all (or mostly) gone. It takes me forever to figure out what books I want to buy, and even when I’m pretty sure I want it, I have to look at it and read some of it before I buy–unless it’s dirt cheap. It’s probably why I like buying books online and usually do it that way. I don’t mind waiting five days to get it–I like the anticipation, in fact.

    I don’t really go to music stores anymore either. I can get anything I want online, and if I want an actual CD, it’s easy enough to order that online too. Of course, I’ve never enjoyed the culture of stores like Virgin. If I do visit a music store, it’s one like Wax Trax–an independent store with old records and the like.

    I think there are a lot of people like me. We may not be the majority, but we are significant enough to matter. Can you imagine getting stuck behind some indecisive girl at the Espresso? It would be nightmarish. Heh.

    I think the major bookstores should close their mega-stores. I’d like to see indies stick around to a format that includes both traditional plus Espresso. What I think is really cool is that Espressos could be placed in non-traditional places–like parks, coffee shops, airport security lines, schools, churches, laundry rooms….

    I’m still waiting for recycling to come to my building. Also, I need a coin machine, soda/snack/latte machines, an ice cream machine, and video rental. I’ll add an Espresso to my dream building list…

    Of course, I’m probably better off just getting it my damn self.

  3. @Seth: thanks for stopping by, and pointing that out. I hadn’t really thought of that (as I hadn’t, previously, really been differentiating revenue from profit). But then, there’s two things to consider, the first being that my original point was more that the book industry’s profits are dwarfed by those of other media, mostly.

    Also, it might increase Borders’ profits, I come at this from the writer’s POV. Facing books cover out mean less shelf space, which means less books on them. It’s already extraordinarily difficult to get on the shelves in the first place, even for established writers.

    Paradoxically, eliminating shelves all together might be better for authors than this new shelving system.

    @Alma: yeah, I get most of mine online, too. But I think you’re right about non-traditional venues; I bet Starbucks would be quick to adopt the technology and install them in their stores.

  4. One point: the idea that publishers act as primaries to let you know who’s good enough to buy books from is kind of a stretch, I think. That idea posits that everything coming out of publishing houses these days is good stuff, and I might just be a book snob, but I run across plenty o’ bad books in my local Borders and B & N stores. And I think you made a similar point in your old Myspace profile, where you said that writing well was kind of sad for you, because it made you realize how bad most current literature is. I’ve learned that just because a book is popular, that doesn’t automatically mean that good reading is in store.

    Also, I agree with Alma; I don’t think I’d spend as much time in a bookstore if the books weren’t there. Or any time, actually, because if I knew exactly what book I wanted, I’d probably lean towards buying it online; the draw of paying less than retail tends to get me.
    Granted, sometimes I’ll go to a brick and mortar bookstore with a specific title in mind. However, after grabbing a copy, I’ll get some coffee and peruse the shelves and thumb through a few books that look interesting. Sometimes I’ll buy those too, sometimes I won’t, but I’ve stumbled upon many great titles by accident by just walking around. Like her, I generally don’t buy CDs anymore, either, but if I really love a band or an artist, I’ll go buy the cd just to have the artwork and the liner notes. I think that the pleasant experience of going to the store and coming home and diving into it, be it a book or a cd or whatever is a treasured thing for many people and as long as they have the means to do it every now and then, music and bookstores (both independent and chain) have a fighting chance.


  5. @Jason: that’s true, and well remembered. I meant that particular part in the sense that, though the story might not be terrific, it’s at least professionally done (i.e., edited, laid out, etc.). That one makes it into the primary doesn’t necessarily make one a good candidate for president; just that it’s viable.

    Okay, on second thought, you’re right, nevermind, it’s a terrible fucking analogy, isn’t it?

    But anyway, you and Alma both bring up good points. I myself don’t generally skim shelves; I browse the bargain section and the periodicals. And like both of you, I don’t really buy CDs anymore, either.

  6. See….I just spent 45 minutes in a bookstore during my lunch hour the other day, simply walking around the shelves and checking out titles that enticed me. I can’t do that online. I don’t WANT to do that online.

    Dean Koontz books? I pre-order the second they become available but I’m a book fiend. I want to discover new authors on my own. Depending on my mood on that day, I want to pick a random book off the shelf, take it home and try that new author, without any idea what I might be getting myself into. I might just find my next Dean Koontz in that way.

    So…I’m a big bookstore fiend…I browse the bargains as soon as I walk in. I like just BEING there, and walking around. Even if I don’t buy anything.

    As far as CD’s..I’m with y’all. The only CD’s I still buy are from Linking Park and Matchbox 20, simply because I love their artwork, etc.

  7. @B: I quit reading Koontz after False Memory. I just couldn’t do it any more.

    Which is sad, because there’s a first draft of my very first ever novel on the top shelf of the closet in my bedroom at my parents’ house, and that draft is a total Koontzian ripoff.

    You do well discovering new authors. You discovered me, after all. That’s gotta count for something.

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