Yesterday saw an exciting workshop at Foyles, the first of two, exploring the future of ‘the UK’s iconic independent bookseller’ ahead of its move to new premises. The London bookshop invited various figures from across the industry to take part in discussions and interactive assignments, generating new ideas about the future of bookselling.
Not only were important figures from the trade present at the workshops at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, but the bookshop’s twitter account got the discussion going, using the hashtag #futurefoyles. From a quick search using Topsy.com, it seems that there were only 98 tweets using this hashtag, but discussion was quick and there were many ideas being thrown around by a wide range of people, from those involved in the industry to ‘normal’ readers.
Discussion on twitter included some creative suggestions to help save high-street bookstores, generally with a common theme of making a more creative and exciting shopping experience for the consumer. @CalebWoodbridge emphasised the importance of encouraging people into bookshops and suggested making the modern bookshop a more social place:
There seemed to be general twitter-consensus that the bookshop of tomorrow should be a more exciting place, bringing people in and making them a more customer-focused buying experience. This is unsurprising; as @ailsabcd tweeted, ‘this is why Amazon is winning against physical stores. All comes down to price’. If physical bookshops are unable to compete in terms of price, then clearly the future of high-street booksellers is intrinsically linked to the customer. Amazon can’t provide the same physical interaction with a customer that a physical shop can offer: so is this where the future of physical bookselling is headed?
Suggestions on twitter for a more interactive and exciting ‘bookshop experience’ were innovative, from @tomtivnan’s suggestion of ‘a Yo Sushi-like conveyor belt of books’ to @SamuelPartridge’s idea of a ‘Stock market style ticker for popular up-and-coming books. What’s going up/down in what genre based on live sales’.
There was discussion about the successful shops that Foyles should take inspiration from: Selfridges and the Apple Store. I’m not sure if the future bookshop needs to be a high-end retail experience, but I do see where @JudyPiatkus is coming from, pointing out Apple’s success with their interactive shops: ‘people like to play and experiment. How do you turn play into bookbuying experience?’
Holding interactive workshops and facilitating twitter discussion about the future of bookselling seems like the perfect step for a bookseller like Foyles to be taking. By involving not only members of the trade, but also individuals and consumers, to get involved and comment on the future of the shop, Foyles is clearly doing the right thing: if the bookshop of tomorrow needs to be interactive, this must be a step in the right direction.