136. The new retail

There is a bookshop in my hometown of Santiago called ‘Follas Novas’ (New Pages). It has a huge amount of books, every conceivable space is full of them. They keep inventory in the store computer, and also in Jose Antonio’s, the owner, head. He can pinpoint the location of any of the many thousand books immediately and with unfailing precision. It is like a tiny local Amazon, with less stock and slightly faster fulfilment. The latter may be an advantage, but small and likely to reduce further once drones can be used for deliveries. And this is a problem. ‘Follas Novas’ will probably disappear, because it becomes irrelevant as a retail option or because Jose Antonio, its soul, retires, whichever comes first. This will leave a void in the town, but only a few will notice. It makes me think that these local bookshops must mutate to survive, as Darwin or Dawkins would tell you. They must become a space which offers what Amazon cannot, combining shopping with experience in a new way. Ideas?

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Comments

Niccy said…
A soul. They should become a book buying experience with a soul. The chance for human interaction and a recommendation for what you might like to read next.

The smell of paper, the smell of anticipation and the unique and personal experience of reading a book and uncovering what it brings. So much more than a button click and a delivery from a sterile Amazon warehouse.

They can provide a relaxing Saturday morning, getting lost in ideas. Perhaps even a network for people to find rare and forgotten treasures they didn't know they needed until they see them. Like the first print of an Einstein paper that came so very close to being mine when I visited Powell's (in Portland, Oregon) rare and antique book room.

How sad, that such a wonderful sounding place might not be anymore. A sanctuary from the world, lost.
SantiDominguezV said…
Yes, Niccy. I fear, however, that in order to survive they must be practical. They will not lose all readers if they are not, but if they lose enough, critical mass will be gone and with it, sustainability. I am not sure what the answer is. I feel many of these bookshops need to provide comfortable reading spaces, create on site book clubs, increase the volume of book talks, etc. Letting an algorithm like Amazon's provide the next suggestions as to what you may like to read loses you the opportunity of finding, through getting lost, that great, left field book. Amazon is designed to reduce your variety, to box you in a set of keywords are categories, to tell you... this is what you read. The risk is similar to that of using Google Maps.

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