I recently had a conversation with a bookseller at a large, high-end bookstore.
The store was a regular spot at his downtown bookstore, which I was a frequent customer of.
He told me that the store was seeing a resurgence of demand for its bookshelves.
The shelves are full.
Bookshelves are crowded.
Booksellers have been complaining for years about the lack of space in bookstores and, to some extent, the lacklustre selection of books at large.
In response, he said, they are starting to turn to online retailers like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Target to fill the gap.
“It’s not going to be the same as in the past,” he said.
But I asked him about a particular aspect of bookselling: the online sales.
“They are going to go online.
It’s a digital business,” he told me.
I told him that online bookselling was not necessarily a good thing for books.
It would be a problem if online sales were so popular, he told a colleague.
“Yes, but they have other problems,” he continued.
“Amazon is not going away.
They will be around for a while.
The internet will be the best place to sell books in the next few years.”
He continued, “The real problem with online is that it’s going to destroy the old model.
If you want to sell a book online, you have to have a good business model.”
So, is online booksellers a good idea?
I think they are a great way to get people to the store,” he replied.
But he said it would be hard to sustain a bookstore, and he warned that it would probably be more profitable to sell online rather than at the physical location.
I pressed him further on the question of whether bookselling would be better for books at the digital store, to which he replied, “No, not necessarily.”
“Amazon has a very good business plan for books,” he added.
“And the best way to sell those books is at the bookstore.
But it’s hard to make a business plan around it.”
In other words, it seems like online bookstores are only a matter of time before they become obsolete.