bookstoreBook Riot has a great little article up exploring the concept of a members-only bookstore. As the article explains, this idea has been floated around (most recently by Bloomberg News, whom they cite) as a way to ‘save’ the bricks-and-mortar bookstore against showrooming, the practice of customers coming in to browse, then going home and ordering it online for cheaper.

Author Jeff O’Neal doesn’t find the Bloomberg article’s suggestions very compelling, but does go on to list a few ideas of his own—not for a ‘members-only’ bookstore per se, but for services a regular bookstore could offer that people might find worth getting for a nominal membership fee. These include delivery, special treatment at events, a monthly surprise box and a members-only reading area.

In my own life, I have found that there are some books I won’t buy at a chain bookstore no matter what the situation (for example, general fiction, which I always read in e-book, and generally library e-book at that). But there are other things we buy, in person, regularly—and if the brick-and-mortar bookstore wants our business, they don’t need fancy membership schemes. They just need to focus on the things we’ll actually buy from them. These include:

Magazines: The Beloved is a devoted reader of Beckett’s Baseball, which he buys for the baseball card stats. But he finds it an expensive magazine, so he only buys every other issue. He likes having the flexibility to go to the store and just pick up the one he wants, rather than dealing with a more expensive every-month-required subscription.

bookstoreChildren’s Items: If we are by ourselves, we may go home and look it up later. But if we have a child with us, and they want something, the Beloved is a pushover and will nearly always buy it for them. I don’t believe in spoiling kids, but I do have fond memories of a book-infused childhood, and I think too that kids have a lot more stuff competing for their attention these days. The Beloved and I are not millionaires, but we do okay enough that I’d like to think we would never have to turn a child away from a book…

Cookbooks: I love cookbooks! I am a terrible cook, and I am forever searching for the book that is finally going to make it all click for me. This is one genre I prefer in print, and I like to see and touch before I buy. If I am seduced by pretty pictures and helpful charts and things, I am prone to the impulse buy in this area. I know I could go home and look it up and maybe get it cheaper, but I want to go home with the pretty book right away. Three authors I like have books coming out in September. I will be at my local Indigo on release day to check them out.

Gift Products: Our local Indigo, no doubt trying to compete with several fancy children’s stores which offer this same service, has just announced a free gift wrapping service. This will almost certainly increase the amount of money they get from us. The Beloved and I are aspiring minimalists. We don’t own any wrapping accoutrements and don’t want to. One-stop shopping where we get the gift and it’s wrapped too is worth the small in-person premium.

Food: Yes, I know, bookstores should be about books and not coffee. But, especially in the summer when my work schedule is light, I often find myself in need of a place which is not my apartment, where I can go and sit and read or work for a little bit. Sometimes, they’ll get me on one of the product categories described above. More times, it will be just the drink and snack. But still, money is money, right?

So, what would make you pay more—a subscription-esque scheme with members-only benefits? Or just more of the stuff you buy already?


  1. I am afraid, I can’t think of anything that would persuade me to purchase a membership in a bookstore.
    I read the vast majority of books in e-book format.
    I have collection of cookbooks that I haven’t opened in ages, because it is easier to search the net for the recipe – complete with a video and/or comments from other people that tried the recipe.

    I do go to bookstores ocassionally, usually when my daughter pulls me there, because she wants a new Horrid Henry book. I have tried to perusade her to use e-ink reader (or an application for he smartphone), with no success. She does not read *that*much, yet, so I didn’t push the issue.

    I have never ever done “showrooming” in a bookstore.
    I do have a look at the net before purchase of big-time items, so I do not overpay things dramatically. But, in my country there is no Amazon and no VAT-free shopping on the net. Plus you have to pay postage and the warranty over the net is bigger hassle, so online shops are no such problem as in USA or Canada.

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