Now here is something different. At The Scholarly Kitchen Joe Esposito suggests we shouldn’t compete with Amazon by duplicating Amazon: we need to make buying a book something that can be done from within Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or whatever. Now of course anyone can speculate about anything, and we innocents can get easily get carried away with enthusiasm. But I do rather trust Joe Esposito, and I recommend reading his whizz-bang piece. For publishers who like me can’t figure out how this would work, here’s a link to Aerbook, who offer to do it all for you.

And for the sentimental among us, Mr Esposito’s vision does include a bricks and mortar component! “Stores are the new black in the world of e-commerce” says Scott Galloway of NYU Stern in a hectic but fascinating presentation linked to towards the bottom of Mr Esposito’s piece. It’s worth listening to, so I have linked to it here also. He sees trouble ahead for single-play retail companies like Amazon, quoting Macy’s as an example of a company with a more diversified base. He predicts Amazon will move into bricks and mortar retail within a year. These people are all saying such exciting things at such a volume that one feels almost compelled to agree while knowing nothing about the facts!

So it all sounds quite simple: all we publishers have to do is build book-buying into our social media, and we’ll be fine. Why do I wonder what Amazon’s reasons would be for just sitting there doing nothing and letting this all happen to them? Couldn’t they try the same social media trick? Or are they too far downstream to be able to compete with the originators? We don’t actually have to sell books to them once we’ve established another way of reaching the customer! Or does their new Amazon Home Services suggest a new direction?

Maybe showrooming is ultimately irrelevant. We talk about being able to touch and feel the book as a necessary preliminary to buying it, but is that just because that’s what we’ve always done when visiting a bookstore? And because that’s what we do, maybe we have come to think that it’s an essential step in the process. As John Samples points out in his comment on “Do we need bookshops?”, recommendations from booksellers rarely seem to make any difference to our buying decisions, and there are lots of better sources available to us. Maybe it’s just time to cut out this sentimentality; buying a book without handling it is not really a problem. Here’s a Bookseller piece from 29 September reporting on a Nielsen survey of retail behavior in Britain.  “43% said they often check out products in a shop before buying online – a practice known as ‘showrooming’. Nielsen said this was most likely to happen for books, holidays, pet products and clothing, shoes or accessories.” So we do do it, but are we not also quite happy to buy clothes and shoes on-line without any such touchy-feely interlude? You can always return them after all. I suspect that the need to showroom books may be less than for shoes.

Maybe a straw in the wind: The Bookseller reports that on-line book sales exceeded in-store purchases in Britain for the first time in 2014.

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