Readersforum's Blog

July 12, 2011

Can bookstores welcome the ebook customer?

By Chris Walters

I’m writing this today from the coffee shop at a Borders, one of the superstore locations in the middle of the U.S. to survive the company’s recent bankruptcy and ensuing real estate culling. I was the first person in the store this morning, and in the past half hour nobody else has come in, which seems too bad: here are thousands upon thousands of books, comics, and magazines, and nobody to browse them.

John C. Malone, who wants to buy 70% of Barnes & Noble, told the New York Times earlier this week why he thinks bookstores still matter (emphasis mine):

“We believe that publishers like the existing physical bookstores, they like having a partner in distribution who lives and dies in the book business as opposed to just commoditizing it, which these other players do,” he said. “So I think you go into it with an edge in your relationship with the publishers.”

The thing that strikes me today about Borders, especially when compared to my recent visits to Barnes & Noble, is how little the company has warmly embraced ebooks. And I do mean “warmly,” not just setting up a little display and otherwise ignoring it, or worse, treating it as the enemy–both conditions apply to this Borders. If ebooks are a valid component of the book business, why do they barely register in a store that lives and dies by it?

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