I just ran into my neighborhood Barnes and Noble store this evening to pick up a couple of books and I thought to myself how excited I will be to be able to download these books on my iPad in April when the 3GS version comes out. I love sitting in the comfort of my home office and previewing music on iTunes and then downloading them directly to my iPod and iPhone. I remember back to the days of a college student and going on the weekends to the music store to get the latest CD that came out. During my last visit to Knoxville all those stores have closed down. During my trip to Barnes and Noble I looked in the back of the store and saw the music center and as usual the clerk sat lonely reading a magazine with his section completely empty of customers. I never see anyone in there. The game has changed and people now purchase their music differently and the book word is undergoing the same revolution. This makes me wonder what will happen to this store once more people start downloading books. That day is quickly approaching.
Barnes and Noble understand the competition they face. A new display highlights the new eReader they are marketing. The “Nook” is their version of the Amazon “Kindle” but both will be destroyed in my opinon by the iPad. This will be another game changer in the tech industry and anyone with an iPhone or iPod will buy the iPad over the competition. They are the ones proliferating technology that has the best design and user interface. The other versions of eReaders will quickly fade into oblivion unless they can figure out a way to compete.
This leaves me wondering what will happen to my favorite book store in town? I never visit a music store any longer and when I have the ability to buy all my books online I will never need to visit the bookstore. What will happen to all these store locations? One has to think that someone at Barnes and Noble is trying to figure this problem out as well. As Starbucks worked hard to make their coffee stores the “third place” Barnes and Noble needs to do something similar to bring thinkers together to converse on books and exchange ideas. Their stores could become new meccas of idea exchange in the local communities. Personal interaction through book clubs and special speaker presentations to enrich the community on a wide variety of topics could be a draw. Since these stores are in major community centers it is a great place to help bring university type discourse to more urban settings. I don’t have time to drive across town to a local university to hear a lecture but would drive to my bookstore to hear a presentation on a topic of interest.
Some might say, “Why not have a webinar or podcast it?” The more we conduct life online, the more we will need communal places to gather with to exchange ideas in person. I have to constantly remind myself not to forget people are social animals. Technology will be useful to help cut cost and save time in many situations but socially we still need places to gather and socialize. This could be an opportunity for them. They need to be looking for the next idea because their business is changing quickly. But this is where the excitement comes in. There is great opportunity here for the entrepreneurial spirit. The difference between an opportunity and a crisis is when you learn about it! I am sure Barnes and Noble and other book stores have been working on this for a while. They don't want to ignore this revolution like the newspaper industry did. What are your thoughts? Where is their opportunity for the future?