A lot of the news about how digital reading is affecting bookstores—both major retailers and small independent brick-and-mortars—has focused on ways the physical bookstores can compete with both online book retailers and ebooks. But instead of competing, an article from Publishers Weekly demonstrates one instance in which a bookstore has joined the ebook revolution while still enticing customers to enter the store.
Austin, Texas-based BookPeople, which recently began selling ebooks, takes customer appointments by offering an “ebook concierge service.” This unique service brings customers to the store with their new e-readers in hand and helps them select, purchase, and download ebooks to almost any device on the market, all while not selling a single dedicated e-reader or tablet in the store. The customers learn how to browse through and purchase their ebooks through BookPeople.com’s relationship with Google eBooks, thus becoming customers who are loyal to the bookstore and its website because of the personal relationship they now have established due to the human interaction in the store.
“We’ve had numerous appointments in the store and have also answered lots of questions on our e-books email account,” BookPeople’s head buyer Elizabeth Jordan told Marc Schultz in the interview. “Customers are psyched to have a source to answer their questions. And we’ve been overwhelmed by how important it is to our customers to keep their business with us even as they migrate to a digital reading device.”
With so much of the industry divided on the benefits of e-reading versus the damage it can do to the vital indie bookstores—and with so many of the players in the industry, including BookPeople, divided on Everyone vs. Amazon—an evolution of this kind seems not only natural, but laudable; it means bookstores can still be the place to turn to for reading content, selection advice, and the sense of community that comes from people getting together to talk about a book.