Recently I was driving and was stuck behind someone with the bumper sticker that said,
Save the book!
My reaction was a sigh. An independent bookstore created these bumper stickers in order to fuel passion of their customers who are clinging to the idea of a ‘physical’ book. I understand their passion because they are seeing physical bookstores disappear faster than ever before. Like a an apocalyptic movie, people are running for the hills to survive clinging to these heavy bricks. Amusingly, most of the data I read points to the fact that there are more books being read than ever before.
So why are we afraid? Let’s examine how we find out about a book’s content.
I love independent bookstores. I love a Barnes & Noble. I quite enjoy a Christian bookstore too. I love them each in different ways but I can easily drive or walk right past them because they don’t deliver a reason to buy there.
Why does that happen?
In my journey, it is because the store’s experience is not good enough to make me want to spend time there and purchase a book.
Here is the good news for those running for the hills. The physical book won’t go away. But that isn’t the point. We should be focused on a reading experience as opposed to whether it is an ‘electronic’ or ‘physical’ book. In publishing, we like to say that we are ‘format agnostic’ and would prefer people reading in whatever way they like. It is the content that matters so can we put the customer in a place where they have a powerful book discovery and reading experience to ultimately buy a book?
By the way, the independent bookstore that created those bumper stickers is one I buy a lot of physical books. I shop there because it provides a valuable experience to help me discover great new books that I would rarely have found online or through my personal network. It is there where I buy a them as presents for people. It is there where I can sit down comfortably and enjoy a quick chapter to test if I want to purchase it or recommend to another. They even offer a way online to buy an e-book through one of their e-book partners. I am also a firm believer that I shouldn’t have to support my independent bookstore as charity. They should give me an undeniable reason to choose their store to purchase a book compared to another. I also don’t mind spending a little more for that experience.
Books don’t need saving. Books need just a better environment to experience and buy them in. It is simple and thankfully with the joy of reading, the ability to find new and interesting things to explore will emerge.
The readers and writers of today will be found in many different environments compared to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Tolkien, or Rowling. Think about where you congregate to read books and share the great ideas that come from them. Are you in that bookstore, sitting on that airplane, in the classroom, or your local coffee shop? It is in those places where today’s books are discovered. It is also there where you will find the experience to embrace and a book can truly be saved.
What are you reading now and in what format? Did a “bookstore” experience help you to purchase that book?