#FutureFoyles: Part Two

Yesterday saw the second workshop at the Charing Cross Road bookshop, and again conversation was rife on Twitter, with even more people getting involved in the discussion. More suggestions were made towards the future of the bookstore, as conversation flowed between writers, publishers, booksellers and readers, united with the hashtag #FutureFoyles.

Photo from swensonbookdevelopment.com

There was a continuation from Monday’s discussions, with a common idea of the future Foyles being a sort of hub for the consumer, and following Monday’s creative and innovative suggestions for the shop, yesterday’s workshop saw more ideas flowing about the Foyles experience.

@Porter_Anderson highlighted the importance of making the shopping experience more exciting than simply shopping on Amazon, tweeting the summary of a group at the workshop’s presentation: ‘#FutureFoyles “More than just filling a shopping basket with product and checking out as on @Amazon.”’ If competing with Amazon’s pricing is to be impossible for the future bookshop, then clearly there need to be other ways for traditional bookshops to fight back against online retailers and cheap eBook retailers.

@Ailsabcd continued to tweet her frustration about an apparent lack of focus on the issue of pricing. With so many shoppers becoming what I like to call jacket shoppers, browsing in-store but then buying cheaply online, Ailsa is right to be looking closely at pricing issues, pointing out that often it’s cheaper to reserve books online and pick them up in store. In conversation with Ailsa, @Sneetchster pointed out the difficulty in lowering prices, pointing out that ‘squeeze is on publishers too’. Clearly the issue of price is a complex one, but nonetheless it seems to go without saying that new ideas about pricing will be of huge importance in the shaping of the future of bookselling. If we look to bookselling in France for example, the ‘Loi Lang’ ensures a fixed price of books, allowing bookshop reductions only up to 5%, and was put in place in 1981 when new competitors such as supermarkets were threatening the fate of independent booksellers. Today, French bookshops are bustling with people eager to buy books, despite the lack of tables of buy-one-get-one-free offers that fill bookshops in England.

So how can the future bookshop fight against cheap online booksellers? Clearly, the idyll of popular French bookshops can’t be reached in England without substantial change in legislation, but there must be ways that booksellers can modernise their pricing structures. @ChrisGarratty tweeted @Foyles to say that ‘[he] would spend a lot more on physical books if [he] got the #kindle version included as well.’ #FutureFoyles discussion saw various suggestions regarding technology and the use of bundling, and @Foyles did comment that ‘Publishers v reticent about bundling’, and @MirabilisDave pointed out that ‘Publishers say to me, “Why bundle when we can charge twice?”’

Perhaps I’m still over-excited following Canongate’s announcement about their bundled multi-format novel with interactive physical cover, but I really do think that bundling in this way, and combining digital features with physical formats seems like the future of bookselling. #FutureFoyles discussions about the use of technology and social media in store saw suggestions of a ‘twitter wall’ and projections of live sales on the walls of the shop, but I think the key to really competing with online bookselling is finding a way to bring digital interactivity to physical bookshops and books.

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Twitter Tuesday: #futurefoyles

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:

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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.