Tag Archives: innovation

Carnegie UK Trust provides funds for library innovation

The Carnegie UK Trust, “one of over twenty foundations established by Andrew Carnegie,” is releasing some £200,000 ($335,440) to help UK public libraries “future-proof their services.” According to the Trust, “the three year funding programme, ‘Carnegie Library Lab’ will create partnerships with up to 15 public libraries to support innovative practice and show that book lending is only one of many services that libraries can deliver.”

Without directly challenging recent UK government policy on libraries, the Trust states in its materials that:

The Carnegie name is synonymous with support for public libraries and Carnegie Library Lab has been launched to continue this long history. It follows the Carnegie UK Trust’s 2012 report on the future of libraries, which found that communities have a real desire for libraries to remain open.

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK Trust said: “Public Libraries have come under scrutiny in recent years with reporting on funding cuts and closures. Despite this, libraries are essential sources for learning and information, and they contribute towards community wellbeing. But times are changing and libraries need to be thinking more about how they can future-proof their services.”

This action by the Trust recalls the advocacy of the American Library Association in conjunction with the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, where libraries are being turned into not only information and services access points, but also hubs for local entrepreneurship and initiatives. However, funding for U.S. library programs is liable to eclipse even the Trust’s generous grant. The Trust also says that “funding decisions will be made in 2014 and 2016, with projects taking place between 2014 and 2017,” and provides links and online details for library professionals wishing to apply.

Why don’t you write with that old book?

Here’s a novel (no pun intended) use for that old unwanted book or printout – why not turn its paper into a writing instrument? That takes the whole concept of recycling one step further – and sure enough, this innovation is at concept stage only. But it appears very slick, as well as interesting.

From IPPINKA, the Niagara Falls, NY-based company that “wants you to consume less,” the P2P intends to “turn paper into pencils.” According to the designers, “the machine takes used memos and other recyclable pieces of paper and transforms them into usable pencils … Simply feed the waste paper into the designated slot and the machine rolls and compresses it, inserts the lead, and then applies a small amount of glue to bond the pencil together. The pencil then automatically slides out the side hole which also doubles as an electric pencil sharpener.”

As you can see, the P2P still needs separate leads and won’t run on paper alone – although maybe future versions will burn up paper and compress the ashes to make charcoal pencil leads. Still, it looks a pretty elegant and fun replacement for the shredder or waste basket. Will it ever see production? Don’t start cutting back on stationery orders just yet …

 

Next Big Book wins Book Expo Challenge – but should it have?

Publishing technology company Next Big Book has won the first-ever Book Expo Challenge at Book Expo America 2014, netting a $10,000 prize and the chance to present to venture capitalists and publishing execs. Next Big Books “analyzes social, sales, and marketing signals to help you make smarter, braver decisions.” Next Big Book aims to help out the publishing industry thus:

Digital publishing and social media have added exponentially to the intricacy of an industry already complicated by tens of thousands of authors and millions of titles spanning dozens of genres and formats. Our monitoring and analysis tools will help you make sense of it all while saving time, providing invaluable insights that will give you the edge in your rapidly-changing industry.

I have one issue with this award though. The Eligibility line on the Challenge website states one criterion only: “Early stage startups in the publishing space.” Now, Next Big Book came to the party with a partnership with Macmillan already in its back pocket, based, according to a writeup in Forbes, on a relationship dating back some five years.

As Forbes‘ Zack O’Malley Greenburg describes it, Next Big Book is based on an existing ”well-funded startup” Next Big Sound, backed by the music industry. Its founders registered the Next Big Book domain name five years ago, aware that the publishing industry might also catch on. And the close cooperation with Macmillan dates back almost a year, after a former Sony exec involved in the early stages of Next Big Book jumped ship to the publisher. Hardly the image of a brave and brilliant New New Thing struggling to emerge from some staggeringly gifted geek’s garage. Music companies have apparently been flocking to Neilt Big Sound. It shouldn’t need much nous to deduce that Next Big Book might take off too.

Oh, and what does all this monitoring and analysis remind you of? Amazon’s sales parsing and recommendation engines, perhaps? Yes, once again, Big Publishing looks desperate to throw money at anyone it thinks can help win back ground it lost to Amazon. Good luck with that one, guys.

Icahn, Apple can’t?

Activist investor Carl Icahn has put Apple fairly in his sights with a tweet and subsequent interviews that confirmed he has taken up a large position in the Cupertino giant’s stock – in the expectation of pushing it into escalating its share buyback program, which would deliver a handsome return to shareholders.

“Having purchased $500 million more $AAPL shares in the last two weeks, our investment has crossed the $3 billion mark yesterday,” he tweeted, following this with: “We feel $APPL board is doing great disservice to shareholders by not having markedly increased its buyback. In-depth letter to follow soon.”

As quoted on CNBC, Icahn said: “Cash of a $150 billion just sitting there doing nothing. And not to use it to do a huge buyback, is sort of disgraceful.” He also disclosed a new $500 million investment into Apple stock, bringing his total commitment to some $3 billion. And he has little reason to regret that commitment so far – Apple shares have risen some 17 percent, according to Reuters, and the company is already in the middle of a share buyback program worth $60 billion, part of a total $100 billion package of measures to return cash to investors.

Icahn has pushed for a total $150 billion package for investors, in a proposal which Apple has advised its shareholders to reject. And one main reason cited was that Apple needs a large cash pile on hand to protect its position and exploit new opportunities rapidly in a fast-changing mobile communications market.

That leaves open the question of whether Apple is actually doing that. Icahn has said that he has no issue with current Apple management strategy outside the area of returns to investors. But falling profits in the autumn 2013 reporting season suggested that Apple was very much in need of the next game-changing technology or product that analysts at the time called for. And other reporting at the beginning of this year suggests that Apple is also facing erosion of market share from Android and other competitors, even after the release of new iPhones like the 5s and 5c.

Icahn may very well be right to ask some of that cash pool to be returned to investors. He could also ask what it’s there for in the first place if these are the results. Perhaps it really is, as he says, sitting there and doing nothing – certainly looks like it ought to be doing something. Watch this space.

Frankfurt Book Fair survey finds media sector in state of runny flux

Frankfurt Book FairA just-released survey of media industry opinion, conducted under the auspices of the Frankfurt Book Fair in the long lead-up to the European publishing industry’s number one event in October, finds the media sector caught on the cusp between past and future, and highly uncertain about which way things will go.

Carried out by Frankfurt StoryDrive (an initiative that “bursts the boundaries between narrative worlds”) and newthinking communications GmbH, the “Market Climate Survey on the Future of the Content and Media World” polled 1,400 media pros, asking them broadly: “What will the [media] world look like in 10 years ?”

The resulting survey is available as a PDF here.

“The industry is caught in a constant balancing act—between back and forth, today and tomorrow, tradition and innovation,” declared Frankfurt StoryDrive. “It follows logically that the results of the study reveal a sense of indecision.”

The full survey consisted of seven scenarios for the possible future of the media sector, worked up from 22 video statements “from innovators in the media and content industries … trend scouts , publishers , authors , film producers and games developers.” (Scroll down to view one of the video statements; the remainder are unfortunately only available in German. —Ed.)

In summary, these were:

  1. In 2022, you’ll have access to everything at the swipe of a finger
  2. The virtual world will permeate all aspects of life in 2022
  3. In the future, stories will be independent and fluid
  4. Stories will be highly individualized in 2022
  5. New working relationships will define the media market in 2022
  6. The year 2022 will be dominated by cooperation
  7. In the future, media companies will rely on new core activities

These scenarios were then put to “around 1,400 representatives of the international content and media world—ranging from the managing director of a large book publisher to a librarian.”

They were very unhappy with the virtual world scenario, with close on 80 percent rejecting or cautiously monitoring its development; and not overly receptive to the principle that consumers should be active in the formulation of stories, with only around 20 percent concurring with this.

As for personalized stories, 81 percent were against adapting “the content of a story to the specific circumstances of individual readers;” and 73 percent declared themselves “not yet prepared for a future of complex products with shorter life cycles;” while 66 percent were “reluctant to embrace consumers as business partners;” and only 17 percent were “preparing to use crowdfunding” to support development.

All in all, then, a pretty conservative response to some admittedly challenging proposals, which tends to confirm received opinion about the media business.

“Unfortunately, new technologies are still all too often seen as a threat, rather than as an opportunity,” said Frankfurt StoryDrive’s Britta Friedrich, co-author of the study. “Many of those surveyed expressed a clear tendency toward maintaining the status quo and, along with that, the hope that they won’t be affected by these changes.”

Seems that even in 2013, Big Media still sees technological change as something to be kept at arm’s length rather than embraced, and is absolutely not ready to go cheek to cheek with it. At this rate the Apples and Googles of the world, present and future, can look forward to more untrammeled disruptive innovation, with the media pros only moving, as so often before, to engage with them when it’s already too late.

Again, click here to download the survey as a PDF.

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Video Statement: Message from the future #05 — Alexander Baumgardt (Management Consultant and Educator)

Do agency-priced e-book royalties rob the authors?

How does agency pricing affect author royalties? Sharp-eyed blogger Brian DeFiore spotted a clue in a slide from HarperCollins’s latest investors’ meeting pointing out that, under agency pricing and the now-standard 25% e-book royalty, publishers are making considerably more and authors considerably less for each agency-priced e-book sale than for each hardcover sale.

$27.99 hardcover generates $5.67 profit to publisher and $4.20 royalty to author

$14.99 agency priced e-book generates $7.87 profit to publisher and $2.62 royalty to author.

So, in other words, at these average price points, every time a hardcover sale is replaced by an e-book sale, the publisher makes $2.20 more per copy and the author makes $1.58 less. If the author made the same $4.20 royalty on the e-book sale as he/she would have on a hardcover, the publisher would STILL be making an improved profit of $6.28.

Even if most books don’t earn out of their advances, DeFiore points out, this means that it’s effectively punishing the most successful authors—the ones whose works do earn out—as well as making it that much harder for the less successful ones to earn out and make more money.

Nick Harkaway points out in FutureBook that, in comparison to these rates, self-publishing is starting to look better every day, especially to authors who’ve already had a few books traditionally-published and earned a following who will gladly buy their self-published titles. If even a few authors jump ship successfully, how many more will follow?

He also expresses puzzlement that all the innovation he would have expected to see in the e-book market by now is nowhere to be found:

I would have expected to see publisher-branded ereading software by now, direct sales and reading clubs, bundled digital and physical copies with deals on audiobooks, loyalty schemes, communities, discovery engines, price experiments, more DRM-free books, a faster transition of manuscripts to books and a partial end to the seasonal nature of the trade, with at least some books coming to market when they’re ready. These things just don’t seem to be on the menu, and yet the profits are decent, and you can’t entire explain that with tentpole books like 50 Shades (tentpole movies are not helping Hollywood, either, and haven’t done for years).

He wonders if the publishing industry is managing to stay afloat without having to innovate simply by leeching more and more money away from the authors, and if so, how much longer this state of affairs can last.

That last bit does read kind of like that song “(It’s the Eighties So Where’s Our) Rocket Packs,” except that unlike with rocket packs there aren’t any technological hurdles preventing publishers from developing any of the things Harkaway is surprised we haven’t seen yet—just publisher inertia. I’m maybe not quite as surprised as Harkaway that these things haven’t materialized yet, though, in light of publishers’ spectacular failure to do anything with e-books for the ten years prior to the Kindle, and their frantic attempts to stop Amazon from doing too much with them after that. So far the only innovation in e-book space has come from the e-book stores, especially Amazon. From publishers, we got every possible attempt to apply the brakes, up to and including colluding to form an illegal anti-trust.

Publishers are doing everything they possibly can to hang onto their paper-book buggy whips, up to and including possibly cannibalizing their authors’ e-royalties to stay afloat while they cling to a dying paper market. They need to figure out how to “burn the boats” and get to where they can start making money out of e-books before paper books have entirely faded away into objet d’art territory. If they don’t…well, even Harkaway admits it’s hyperbole to predict some kind of “armageddon” for traditional publishers. But it only takes one armageddon to bring everything to a crashing halt.

I will admit, I do harp on the publishers’ failure to capitalize on e-books every chance I get. And maybe in their shoes I wouldn’t be able to do any better. But just seems so asinine that they’ve had every chance to innovate, and they responded to these opportunities by colluding to force Amazon to raise its prices instead.

Looking at that track record, I get indignant when I think about the marvelous innovations we could have seen in the e-book market by now—the ones Harkaway called out above, for example—that we haven’t gotten because the publishers either couldn’t be bothered with or felt downright threatened by the new technology. It’s like the futurists’ flying cars only worse, because as I said above, there is no technological obstacle to doing these things—just institutional inertia.

Come on, guys, get with the program…while you’re still around to do so. Otherwise, you’ll die out like the dinosaurs you are, and a new breed of mammals will inherit the Earth. If the big traditional publishers do collapse, the smaller publishers will still be around, and I’m sure it won’t take long for some of them to step into the vacated niches. And maybe they’ll be a bit more prone to innovation.

A Lesson In Publishing Innovation, Direct from the Shopping Mall

I’m doing my holiday shopping this week, and it struck me how in some ways, the changes the publishing industry faces right now are a lot like the changes a family goes through as people evolve and grow.

In my family, we don’t buy for adults but we do buy small presents for little children, and the puzzle this year has been what to do about the baby niece. Her toddler brother is no problem; he’s old enough to have a personality and is obsessed with dinosaurs right now, so we’ll be buying him something dinosaur-themed. But his newborn sister doesn’t have any interests yet, and she has a mama blessed with friends who have given her all the baby essentials she could need. So our gift is a tricky one; we’re trying to anticipate what she might like in the coming months or years, and that can be a tricky thing.

Do we assume she won’t appreciate anything we might buy her now, and buy her something she might like later, such as jewelry? There’s no guarantee she’ll turn out to be the girly type. Perhaps a book I loved, which she might enjoy when she’s older? But how do I know she’ll share my literary tastes? Who has any idea what her interests will be in one year, in five, in 20? There are no clues to go on with a baby this little other than ‘she’s a girl,’ and in today’s gender-agnostic world, even that is not worth much.

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Now, consider the publishing industry. Its problem has been that it’s had a business model that has been stable for several centuries. Publishers were like the Greek gods up there on Mount Olympus, having their same old sword fights and doing their same old thing. And now, they have become mortal …

So, what they need to do is stop looking for the timeless and eternal new Mount Olympus here—the new monolith to replace the one they’re losing. Instead, they need to develop a more nimble and changeable business model that lets them grow with the times. I wouldn’t buy my niece an iPod that she can use years down the line, because I understand that by the time she’s ready for something like that, the tech world will be different. Specs will change, technology will evolve. It may not even be called an iPod anymore. Who knows what tech we’ll have by then?

Sure, I can buy her a stuffed animal she may be ready for in six months’ time, but planning ahead for years is a whole other story. And yet that’s what the publishers seem to be doing: They’re looking for the new business model they can keep forever, instead of looking for the products that will satisfy the market we have right now, and in the near-term.

They need to streamline their systems so that if something new comes along, they can embrace it. They need to think less like the immortal Greek gods who stay the same for centuries, and more like us mortal families who grow and change over years. Yes, there has to be a certain amount of foreword thinking—that’s what gives us the education savings plans and the retirement investment accounts we have in our lives. But there also has to be flexibility. Buying a toddler a dinosaur toy because he’s into that right now is a very different thing from permanently installing a full dinosaur skeleton into your living room. If you did that, you’d have no space, no money, no room for things to change or evolve as he—and his interests—grow.

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It’s not about saying, We had the X and we will replace it with the Y, and then we’ll be done and the problem will be solved. It’s about saying, We did it this way when the world was such that we had to do it that way, and now we will see what the world needs today. And then you have to keep saying that, so that when the dinosaurs are done and he’s into something else, you can provide him that experience … and likewise, when the EPUB file or the PDF magazine or the flash Web app is done and gone, you can provide whatever the new experience is going to be.

If there systems are so formalized and fossilized that they can’t do that, then what they need to learn is not how to make an EPUB error-free, or how to optimize a PDF for Zinio. What they need to learn is how to roll with it a little better than they currently are. Would a parent tell his toddler, when the dinosaur fad inevitably passes, to hang tight for a decade or so while they figure out how to implement the next interest? Of course not. They roll with it, within their means and abilities.

That’s how life goes.

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Publishing will survive through innovation

Is publishing “dying”? On FutureBook, Vicky Hartley expresses doubt. She points to a number of great new multimedia apps on tablets that demonstrate some publishers are finding ways to use the new capabilities of tablets to reach out to readers better than ever before. Heuristic Media’s London – A City Through Time is one example, and the works of children’s book-based-app publisher Nosy Crow are another.

I’ll admit to being rather impressed by the trailer on London’s website, but I think it might be a bit premature to generalize from just a few book-related apps like this to the entire publishing industry. While interactivity might be great for non-fiction works that seek to cover a particular subject in extremely detailed scope, or for illustrated children’s works that also serve as learning tools, it’s not going to do anything for the fiction market.

But on the other hand, perhaps I’m being too specific. Hartley’s overall thesis seems to be that there are plenty of opportunities for publishing to adapt and survive to the new technological world in general. There’s no reason the opportunities for fiction publishers should necessarily look anything at all like those for non-fiction or children’s books.

Of course, the question remains whether publishers actually will take advantage of those opportunities. The bigger houses haven’t seemed that eager to do so so far. On the other hand, smaller operations like Baen and O’Reilly have been innovating for years.

10 challenges to innovation in publishing

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That’s the title of an article by Sophie Rochester in The Literary Platform.  Here’s a sampling:

… While it’s the start-ups who appear to be more agile and bold when it comes to creating innovative digital publishing business models, our established publishers still hold the key to producing some of the best quality content.

We’ve listed ten things that we feel create the biggest challenges to publishers when it comes to digital innovation. This Thursday we’ll be holding the second annual FutureBook Innovation Workshop in association with The Literary Platform. Our Innovation Workshop speakers will demonstrate how they are currently dealing with some of these challenges.

1. Our audience is evolving

Some of the most innovative digital publishing projects launched in recent years have been deemed ‘ahead of the reader’. Our understanding of what a reader expects from ‘book’ now is changing all the time, and judging what a reader is ready to handle now, in a year’s time, in ten year’s time – can be hard to judge.

At the same time, the relationship between the reader and the writer is changing. Writers like Jeff Norton are experimenting with bold new narrative development processes that ask beta-readers to help inform the next stages of the story. Mike Jones’ Portal Entertainment (SXSW, Start-up Weekend London in September 2011 and Most Innovative Company) is already making immersive narratives where the audience takes part in the story. How do traditional publishers fit into this much more direct involvement between the writer and the audience and, importantly, how is a direct relationship between reader and writer monetised?

2. The convergence of media means our competitors are changing

Storytelling is everywhere – it’s a core component for television drama, film, videogames and advertising. These industries have been experimenting for a lot longer with taking storytelling across other digital platforms. Television programmes like Skins (Channel 4) have used writers to extend the life of the series into social media channels and beyond. Mindshapes’ Magic Town also takes readers into an exciting web environment engaging children with their favourite book characters on a different platform. There have also been some attempts from traditional publishers, such as Faber & Faber’s experimentation with John Lanchester’s Capital, which extended the life of the book into the email Inboxes of potential readers, drip-feeding gentle interactions on a daily basis with the themes of the book.


The Dropbox cloud storage service as a disruptive innovation

Venture capitalist Bill Gurley’s personal blog, Above the Crowd, has a post pointing out why Dropbox is a “major disruption” (that is, a disruptive innovation—”an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology” per Wikipedia) in the industry. Prompted by a new feature Dropbox added, to allow Android devices to synch photos automatically, Gurley points out that it’s easy to underestimate the importance of what Dropbox has done.

He explains that Dropbox was the first service to solve the crucial problem of state synchronization—keeping the same files current everywhere. And because it was able to do this, it has made possible a whole way for people to work with their files.

Once you begin using Dropbox, you become more and more indifferent to the hardware you are using, as well as the operating system on that device. Dropbox commoditizes your devices and their OS, by being your “state” system in the sky. Storing credentials and configurations of devices, and even applications are natural next steps for this company. And the further they take it, the less dependent any user becomes of the physical machine (HW and SW) that is accessing that data (and state). Imagine the number of companies, as well as the previous paradigms, this threatens.

I certainly see where he’s coming from, since I’ve been using it that way myself. I keep the stories I’m working on writing in my Dropbox private folder, originally as DOC files and lately as Scrivener project files. I can work on the docs with LibreOffice on my Windows desktop, or my Laptop booted into either Windows or JoliOS, and Scrivener is similarly platform-agnostic (though I haven’t installed the Linux beta yet).

And, of course, Calibre users know that it is possible to create a Calibre library in your Dropbox folder so that you can immediately load any of your e-books into Stanza or IbisReader on demand. I can also use it to share files privately with friends.

I’ve been getting along quite well with my 10 gigabytes of free Dropbox space, of course. I don’t know if I’d ever need to upgrade to their paid service, for the small size of files I use. On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to keep my entire iTunes library in the cloud. And I could probably manage that for just $10 a month on its “Pro 50” 50-gig plan. Worth thinking about for the future, I suppose.

Should education publishing try to innovate faster?

stack-of-booksOn FutureBook, Shane Rae wonders if the education publishing industry is failing to innovate as it should. He describes the legacy model of education publishing, which involves prototyping, trial, feedback, and development to make sure that what gets published is completely finished before it sees print or CD-ROM, forms of media with a long shelf-life. The problem Rae sees is that this often leads to trying to match competitors’ products rather than better them—creating the thing that users want now, rather than what they might want down the road.

Now, in the age of online applications we can iterate as we go.  Instead of crossing every ‘T’ and dotting every ‘I’ on the way to perfection we can get ‘near’, release and test user response.  More excitingly we can innovate by releasing features that we think will be well received without testing them at all and just see what happens, confident in the knowledge that we can change things back quickly should our innovations go wide of the mark.

Of course, as Rae notes, big publishers tend to have institutional inertia to match their size. It’s hard for a big organization to change and innovate as quickly as the market demands.

It’s an interesting approach Rae is positing. It seems that the ease of change in the digital world seems to promote the idea of just throwing new things out there and trying them to see what will happen. And that can be a valid way to innovate. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of nifty new features in software come with nifty new bugs to match. Even the MMO I play, City of Heroes, spends several weeks exhaustively testing each new upgrade to the game, trying to minimize unexpected effects before it brings them live.

Can bookstores welcome the ebook customer?

20110709-010717.jpgI’m writing this today from the coffee shop at a Borders, one of the superstore locations in the middle of the U.S. to survive the company’s recent bankruptcy and ensuing real estate culling. I was the first person in the store this morning, and in the past half hour nobody else has come in, which seems too bad: here are thousands upon thousands of books, comics, and magazines, and nobody to browse them.

John C. Malone, who wants to buy 70% of Barnes & Noble, told the New York Times earlier this week why he thinks bookstores still matter (emphasis mine):

“We believe that publishers like the existing physical bookstores, they like having a partner in distribution who lives and dies in the book business as opposed to just commoditizing it, which these other players do,” he said. “So I think you go into it with an edge in your relationship with the publishers.”

The thing that strikes me today about Borders, especially when compared to my recent visits to Barnes & Noble, is how little the company has warmly embraced ebooks. And I do mean “warmly,” not just setting up a little display and otherwise ignoring it, or worse, treating it as the enemy–both conditions apply to this Borders. If ebooks are a valid component of the book business, why do they barely register in a store that lives and dies by it?

I asked an employee if they had the Kobo Touch available, and he brought it out from the back. (He hadn’t had a chance to secure it to the display table yet.) We talked a little about ereaders. I told him I had a Kindle 3 and that I thought Nook and Kobo had finally trumped Amazon on the interface front.

That’s when he confessed, “I won’t buy an ereader at this point, I won’t even touch them. It’s a principle thing.” He was a really awesome, generous guy, but he was basically un-selling me on the device.

I don’t blame him for seeing sides and taking the one that more directly benefits him, especially after all the trouble his company has gone through. But it’s too bad that so many bookstores and booksellers remain grim at the idea of ebook sales. I mean, if I walked among the shelves here today and found a book I liked, I would want it in digital format, not print. I just don’t buy print books anymore. So why isn’t there an easy way for me to make that purchase right here in the store (without cheating and visiting Amazon on my smartphone)? Why can’t I bring the book to the register, tell the cashier I actually just want it as an ebook, pay for it it, and receive an email with a download link? Why am I, a potential customer, so problematic to sell to?

Or: why aren’t there more accessories for ebook devices for sale here today–cases, decals, lights, cards that represent warranty extension plans? I’m at a bookstore, and for all practical purposes my Kindle is my book. Maybe a competitor makes it, but that doesn’t mean Borders can’t sell accessories for it. It would be nice if everyone in this town who owns a Kindle thought of their local Borders, not Best Buy or any other brick and mortar store, as the place to shop for Kindle-related items. They might even buy some print books while in the store.

And maybe short-sighted executives are gumming up the purchase experience with overcomplicated DRM and proprietary platforms, but that doesn’t mean bookstores can’t create special kiosks or displays that feature titles from DRM-free, device-agnostic publishers, and sell digital copies of those books directly to shoppers, alongside print editions.

I love bookstores and want them to thrive. But I also want them to be relevant. I’ll probably buy something here before I leave today as a “get well soon” gesture for Borders, but right now I can honestly say there’s almost no reason for me–a heavy reader and frequent buyer of books–to ever step foot in one of its stores again. Amazon may have created the problem of the ebook customer, but it’s up to the bookstore to find a way to sell to him again.

(Photo: doortoriver)