Wednesday, May 30, 2012
If you enjoy the odd trip to the bookstore, but wonder how long bookstores have
left with Amazon as a competitor, take heart. At least one mom-and-pop bookseller has
found a winning formula, according to Phil Johnson of
Working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Johnson had learned that the Harvard Book Store had new ownership. Johnson feared for the store at first, but eventually found himself wanting to know how the new owner was seeing his bookstore thrive despite Amazon and the depression. So Johnson interviewed Jeff Mayersohn to learn how he achieved "double digit sales growth month by month over the last year", and encountered some very creative thinking in the process.
Imagine for a moment what it would feel like if people walked into your company and used the lobby to call your competitors and buy their products. That's standard consumer behavior in a bookstore. People browse, find a book they like, pull out their smart phone, and order online.I love this, and I'll have stop by there some time just to see it. Rather than meekly accepting his store's apparent role as "Amazon's showroom", Mayersohn has instead made Amazon (and Google) his catalogue. He did this by realizing that, like most big advantages, Amazon's involves trade-offs. Seeing an opportunity in what Amazon doesn't offer, Mayersohn found a golden opportunity and seized it.
Making an intuitive leap, Jeff wondered if the opposite could be true? Maybe access to the vast universe of digital content could also save the bookstore. Maybe the bookstore, while limited in inventory, could evolve in the digital world and become a destination where people had access to every digitized book ever published.
Essentially, [Mayersohn] installed a printing press to close the inventory gap with Amazon. The Espresso Book Machine sits in the middle of Harvard Book Store like a hi-tech visitor to an earlier era. A compact digital press, it can print nearly five million titles including Google Books that are in the public domain, as well as out of print titles. We're talking beautiful, perfect bound paperbacks indistinguishable from books produced by major publishing houses. The Espresso Book Machine can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line.