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Book-buying may be old, but buying books doesn't have to be a Luddite experience.

Borders’ bankruptcy is seen as a victory for e-books and the beginning of the end for brick-and-mortar booksellers, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to build a better bookstore.

QR Codes

Every book on every shelf should have a QR code. I want to scan that QR code and give the bookstore an affiliation fee or buy it from your company’s online bookstore.

Stop dividing Brick-and-mortar and online sales into separate silos. You need to make online sales and not just for your own device. If someone wants to go into Barnes and Nobles and buy something for their Kindle, give them the sale, because otherwise you are just not going to get anything.

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

eBook Readers with cameras

See above. QR codes allow you to build an online dimension into your bookstore. Readers should be able to take advantage using the device they use to read. Cameras are cheap and you don’t need much processing power to read a QR code. Stick it on the back and let them fly.

Let me use a computer!

This drives me crazy. Why is it that in half of these stores only employees are allowed to search the store via keyboard? Why can’t I get on that computer and find the book I want?

I understand that brick-and-mortar bookstores make a lot of money from people browsing and seeing another book they wanted, but some just want to get in and out, give that to them if you want to provide a decent alternative to Amazon.

Even better, offer a free mobile application that lets me walk into a store and automatically access that store’s database on shelving and stock. You want to make more sales, put the “If you like this book, get these others” bit on that application. Make sure it tells you exactly where in the store to get them too.

Alter reality

While you are at it with the QR codes, give me the ability to find out more about the book. One camera snap should allow me to access videos, author interviews, reviews and more.

Build a Rotten Tomatoes for books

I want to see a conglomeration of reviews for each book. Really. Has no one done this yet?

Make register transactions social transactions

Provide a service for your customers that can automatically publish their purchase to Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads.

Be a book-trading hub

Barnes and Nobles supports lending books to friends, but only digital ones. Why? Provide a local book club or two with a meeting time and space. Support book trading by providing geo-aware postings for your customers.

Allow customers to give you books to give away for free. Don’t bother trying to become a used book trader, just have a bin of sticker-ed books that people give to you to give away. At the end of every month, donate what’s left in the bin. Besides good will, it gives people a reason to step through the door.


Who buys music in a book store? I mean it may make for the rare top-of-mind purchase, but for the most part you can just move to digital distribution by the methods above. Stop the wasteful and profit-killing attempts to stock music and just concentrate on the book-selling thing.

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  1. Neil on Wednesday 16, 2011

    I think if bookstores can find their own niche they will survive, if people are willing to travel miles just to come to a bookstore that means they have something special to offer, something that they will probably never find online. I have a Kindle but I only ever users for e-books I prefer the feel of the real live hard back