The Future of the Bookshop in a Social Web World

I don’t think it is any secret that my one real ambition is to own my own bookshop.  When work isn’t going well (which has happened pretty regularly these last couple of years) I spend an awful lot of time thinking about it.  Then again when things are going pretty smoothly like at the moment it isn’t something I dwell on much.

I also have an unhealthy obsession with the Espresso Book Machine and spent many an hour scribbling down ideas of how to combine the two ideas into some cool shop (called From Pixels to Pulp – told you I spent alot of time thinking about it!).

Then as I was trawling through my Google Reader I come across a post from Cory Doctorow about his ideas about the future of bookselling (which he wrote in response to a great post from Clay Shirky on the same topic-ish) and there in black and white is an example of almost exactly what I’d want to do – with a link to a store in the US already doing it and also a load of inspiration for other value added options (I’m especially interested in the idea of doing something special with the covers – maybe creating a little app that pulled in relevant Creative Commons images from Flickr and titles using the Open Font Library so people could personalise their books?).  These days you’d almost certainly need some element of online sales to supplement the bricks and mortar side of the business but these days that is a relatively easy task (especially given my friends) and I think there must be a way of building a more useful and attractive search and browse interface on top on the Google Books offering.  I’ve always loved what Moo have done and am a fan of what Newspaper Club are trying to do and this seems to sort of fit with all of that.

I think a city like Bristol would embrace something like this especially in the right location and I’d love to see how far the social web could help this sort of undertaking rather than be a hindrance to it.

So I have the inklings of a plan – now all I need is a skip load of money to get hold of an Espresso Book Machine, rent a shot, build a website (including app) and god knows what else.  Oh well at least I have a job I like at the moment!

5 thoughts on “The Future of the Bookshop in a Social Web World

  1. I’ve been getting pretty obsessed with these ideas too lately- really enjoyed the Shirky, Doctorow and Jukes posts on the subject… There are a couple of other ideas I think are vaguely related:

    Firstly, I once heard about a guy (in San Francisco I IIRC) who had set up an old-style magazine stand and luxury chocolate emporium- people were coming for high-end magazines and chocolate, either to consume there or to take away and the idea was that the two combined would be far more valuable to customers and profitable to the business. No idea if it was successful but it sounded superb. There’s something wonderful about that American book/magazine plus coffee/cigar/chocolate emporium. I’d love to run a place like that.

    Second, there’s so much happening around ebooks, Instapaper, etc. I’ve been using Instapaper on my iPod to read loads of US magazine feeds and it’s not half bad. It seems like nobody’s really set the course for what all this ‘epaper’ stuff means means yet. Some kind of bookshop which also takes advantage of the fact that magazines will probably go the way of newspapers if they don’t get on the ebook/Espresso machine/whatever-comes-next bandwagon could be a great thing.

    Not really sure what my point is, but there just seems to be so much out there waiting to be grabbed. If I had a skip load of money I’d be happy to go into business with you😀

  2. Matt says:

    I think the Books plus ‘something cool’ model is one that will really work – the coffee/book shop model has been done to death but the luxury chocolate idea sounds cool – it needs something to attract foot traffic but also ploughs a niche that appeals to the same market..my favourite idea for a long time was to have a UK version of the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company (http://www.superherosupplies.com/) sharing the space with the bookstore..

    I’ve also played around with the idea of combining a store with a co-working space (kind of like the Kings Cross version of the Hub but on a smaller scale) just some comfy seats, lots of power, wifi and coffee for a small membership fee..

  3. Yes that’s a good idea. The co-working space sounds like a simple way to generate revenue, I don’t know why we don’t see more of that- “here’s a some cheap office space to rent for the afternoon, and by the way would you like to buy some coffees and something to read during your lunch break?”

    But as you say tying this in to the online world, in the way that small market stalls also run eBay stores for example, could be the difference between a small struggling business and something new and successful.

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