Friday, March 14, 2008

Where did all the books go?

I saw an article recently, that has been much blogged about apparently, about Borders changing how they arrange books on their shelves so that more books face out so that you can see the covers. They believe that it increases sales, but the downside is that because the books take up more shelf space this way, they stock fewer titles.

The thought of this horrifies me. Or maybe it saddens me. I love shopping at the big bookstores because they are so big, and so very full of books. That sounds a little simplistic, but here's the thing: I don't shop there for coffee, chocolate, board games, or usually even music or dvd's. I just want books. I love the smell of the freshly inked paper, and the sight of floor to ceiling shelves packed with more words than I can probably read in a lifetime (though I do my best).

I am a regular browser of Amazon, and get plenty of mass mailings from the Doubleday Book Club (who still addresses me by my maiden name, if that's any indication of how long I've been hearing from them), so I'm fairly up to date on the big-name new releases. When I go to a bookstore like Borders, though, I'm not going to see the top 10 (or even 100) new releases. I can find better prices on those online, or at places like Walmart and Sams' Club, or even Walgreens. When I go to a bookstore like Borders, I want to be able to wander the shelves and browse books I am not familiar with and authors I've never heard of. That sort of shopping is really difficult for me on a website--browsing 10 items per page is not the same as scanning a few hundred per section of bookshelf. If I only shopped for books that I already knew existed, then my reading list would be very limited, indeed.

They're not talking about reducing themselves to only selling a few hundred books, just reducing the inventory by 5 to 10%. The problem, as far as I can see it, is that once they start reducing the inventory and marketing just the higher-quantity items, then they will start losing customers like me. Yes, I buy some of those more popular books that they will be keeping, but what is the point of going out of my way to a bookstore to buy something that's cheaper at another store? Think I'm making a special trip for the coffee and tote bags?

I have seen many examples of stores attempting to "increase profits" by "focusing" on certain profitable items, and not exactly succeeding. Been to a good fabric store lately? One that wasn't so cluttered with scrabooking junk and lawn ornaments that they had no room for anything that wasn't a poly/cotton blend? Me either.

*Sigh* I'm not a marketing executive, and my little blog posts aren't enough to change the opinions of the all-powerful statistics-wielding decision makers (and I'm no longer doing data warehousing and analysis of any of those statistics). I guess I will do my share of voting with my dollars, although abstaining for lack of a good choice won't bring back the books.

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