The Bookstores of the Future

By Midge Raymond,

  Filed under: On Publishing

This Boston Globe article on a Vermont independent bookstore offers a glimpse of what our future bookstores might look like — and it actually paints a pretty nice picture.

Imagine your local indie bookstore with “all the classic trappings: exposed beams, wood tables stacked with hardcover bestsellers, comfortable leather chairs nestled into alcoves” — as the Globe describes the Northshire Bookstore. Then imagine being able to get virtually any book you want on demand, while you wait. That’s what this bookstore does, with “Lurch,” a giant machine that creates books for customers by downloading them from an online catalog.

The publishing world is “closely following the experiment at Northshire, the first independent bookstore in the United States to install the clattering book machine” — and if it succeeds, it could solve a lot of issues at once. Those of us who love independent bookstores will still have them. Those of us who love trees will be happy knowing that only as many books as we need will be printed. No book will ever go out of print. Bookstores won’t have to deal with returns. It’s all good.

Granted, the bookstore does use the machine for a lot of local self-published authors. But so far, Northshire sees the experiment as a success … and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next, with the big bookstore chains as well as other independents that want to stay competitive. When the Globe asked Northshire manager Chris Morrow whether he thought one day every bookstore might have a print-on-demand machine: “Maybe not every bookstore,’’ he replied. “But every smart bookstore.’’

(By the way, this link features a video demonstration of how a book is downloaded and printed by the Espresso Book Machine. Pretty cool.)

And for anyone who’s mystified by book sales and what they’re all about, check out literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog (this post was actually written by an excellent guest blogger) Book Sales Demystified. It’s a good read for anyone who’s got a book out there (or hopes one day to have one out there), as all writers need to pitch in when it comes to sales, and writers with new books should always know what to expect (or not to expect) from their publishers. A case in point: “Any time you see a title on a major front-of-store display, it’s because that book’s publisher paid the account for the promotion. Stephenie Meyer doesn’t magically get her own table, and those “New Release” tables aren’t populated by the store staff’s personal favorites. The publisher and the account agree on time tables, promotions, and monetary reimbursement, and the account is paid upon completion of those promotions.”

For questions and comments, visit the blog; it’s a great one to follow in general, and I’m looking forward to the other guest posts this week.


  Comments: 2

  1. Sean Truman Farley

    Technology amazes me. Having worked in Barnes & Noble for a few years, I can’t even imagine having a machine that would allow for a customer to have printed what they need. Amazing.

  2. I love Northshire Books! I did a reading there in June 2007 and was utterly enamored with the place — and with the friendly and savvy staff.