How book stores foster ebook sales

bordersclosedA post by Dennis Johnson for Melville House bemoans the mass closings of Barnes and Noble (B&N) stores across the US. Within the last 30 days or so, Johnson points out, B&N locations in Los AngelesSan FranciscoPhiladelphiaWashington, DCSeattleChicagoDallas (two), Austin, and Manhattan have shut down. Ebook sales likely had a significant role in B&N’s decision to close those locations, which is interesting as brick-and-mortar book stores foster ebook sales.

The practice of “showrooming” — seeing a thing before buying it — affects buying behavior. Specifically, customers are more likely to buy an ebook after seeing its physical counterpart in a store. David Streitfeld noted this behavior for the New York Times in December 2012, in reference to the shutdown of Borders:

“Another, more counterintuitive possibility is that the 2011 demise of Borders, the second-biggest chain, dealt a surprising blow to the e-book industry. Readers could no longer see what they wanted to go home and order. ‘The print industry has been aiding and assisting the e-book industry since the beginning,’ said [Michael Norris, a Simba Information analyst who follows the publishing industry].”

Another survey suggested that 40% of the people who buy books online looked at them in a bookstore first.

Ebooks might become my “old man sticking point.” The appeal of a toting a library on a device the size of a magazine isn’t lost on me, but I’d rather read a paper book any day.


  1. I’ve done this. I much prefer iBooks for reading, but I find the iBooks Store pretty rubbish for discovering new books. If you’re not sure what you want to read, it’s a lot easier to find something by wandering around an actual bookstore than it is trying to browse for something good in the iBooks Store. Real bookstores have been doing this forever; they know how to present what they have so you can find something you’re interested in, even without knowing anything about your tastes or what you’ve read in the past. An app like iBooks, with all it knows about me, should be able to do a lot better.

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