How can digital book readers, audiobook readers, online communities and book clubs support independent booksellers? How can booksellers leverage curation and discovery expertise to connect with these readers?

Host:  Jason Boog

Participants:

Jason Boog, Fable (L.A.) jason@fable.co

Eric Besner, Fable (NYC) ericb@fable.co

Billie Bloebaum, Bookstore Romance Day  

Andrea Ginsky, Bookstore1Sarasota (FL)  andrea@sarasotabooks.com

Angie (Angeline) Gomez, student & reader   festival@pen.org

Candace, Editor/Teacher (Louisiana)

Kelly Stromberg

Kendra Armer, Reader (SF Bay Area)

Margie Franzer, Wanderlust Bookstore  wlbookshop@gmail.com

Tom, New Story Community Books (Michigan)

Kevin Smokler, Author & Friend of Booksmith (SF)  smokler@gmail.com

Julie O’Mara, Author/Reader

Lauren Gallagher, Book Buyer (started at Booksmith)  laurengallagherbooks@gmail.com

Andy Bellows, SF, City Lights

Notes

Examples of how digital book readers have supported local/independent/brick-and-mortar bookstores?  

Booksellers who are heavy ebook consumers themselves nevertheless find marketing ebooks to bookstore consumers challenging. Hard time marketing Hummingbird — delivery system lacking. There’s open space for bookstores to jump in there, like libro.fm did in the audiobooks market; nothing like that exists in the ebook world.  Maybe booksellers need to involve customers in more social/chatting spaces to share the reading experience?

It would be great to connect the discovery and curation expertise that booksellers have at their disposal to different communities of readers, including digital natives. No AI has yet been able to compete with the human curation expertise.

Booksellers are frustrated that they don’t have a good, viable option as efficient and “friendly” as Kindle/Amazon platform — a particularly obvious pain point when consumers who are visiting bookstores can purchase the ebook instantaneously and effortlessly online.  Booksellers need an ebook platform similar to Libro in terms of marketing, reach and ability.

A large percentage of readers use libraries for ebooks, competition to booksellers in that consumers love getting ebooks from their libraries.  Local libraries, Hoopla, etc — plethora of choices for consumers in this lending space

Indie booksellers’ struggles are much like those Barnes & Noble has/had: B&N solution was to facilitate digital purchases. 

Bookshop.org is a great platform for booksellers to build suggested reading lists and share them with customers that allows the bookstore to collect some of the $ from the purchase.  

Trick is convincing independent bookstore consumers to purchase non-physical book formats, one stop shopping service.

Some readers are allergic to using e-devices: feels like work; anti-Amazon sentiment; concerns about losing

Audiobooks work best for focused linear story consumption but not some traditional reading use cases (want to focus in on passage, reread, study)

Digital (ebook, audiobook) readers love being in bookstores, love the feeling, and often purchase multiple versions (e.g. hard copy + audio), appreciate the convenience of multiformat availabilities.

Teachers in some cases have students reading books in Libby, lent by their local libraries, as well as ebooks provided by their school systems

Books that book clubs read are rarely on Hummingbird. Ebook avails outside of Amazon/Kindle are perceived as limited as well.

In-person book clubs migrated to Zoom over pandemic, will revert to in-person end of year. Bookseller book club participants ask about purchasing ebook — it’s a format of interest for those participating in bookseller book clubs.  A social reading platform (e.g. Fable) could be receptive to readers across formats. 

Great moderators are a powerful unifier for the book club discussion.  

The strength of the moderator is paramount; booksellers/book buyers have great credibility as book club moderators.  Melville House (Brooklyn) is an example of a bookseller with a strong book club and social media presence.

Book club conversations segue from the book(s) under discussion to: what else do you recommend?, and other related topics. They’re nodal sites of communication among those with like-minded interests.

Creative book club concepts booksellers can help advocate for increased readership: 

  • Book Swap (white elephant style), where discussion is about why reader did/didn’t like book and wants to swap it
  • Clubs where all readers are reading a different book simultaneously

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