ATG Article of the Week: “Book Places in the Digital Age.”

by | May 24, 2012 | 0 comments

Book Places in the Digital Age  is a piece by Tony Sanfilippo, the marketing and sales director for Penn State University Press that appears in The Digital Digest: the Electronic publishing news from the AAUP Digital Publishing Committee.   As many are voicing concerns about the continued viability of bookstores, Mr. Sanfilippo offers a thoughtful proposal that he hopes might arrest “the downward spiral of the bookstore in America”.

Going through a number of imaginary scenarios, he proposes a new model for bookstores as a “place”  that includes an Espresso Book Machine and displays of used and rental books along side new titles – with the various purchase options clearly posted.  His bookstore also has annual memberships that offer free borrowing of any book in the store as well as DRM-free ebook editions for many of the titles.   He further suggests that “maybe publishers should treat indies like showrooms, and send their books to indies on consignment.”  In such a model “only if and when a book sells is money paid to the publisher.”

But this isn’t just talk.  Mr. Sanfilippo is taking action.  He is putting “my money where my mouth is” by  experimenting with a bookstore in Berkeley, CA to implement some of his ideas.  Mr Sanfilippo has “sent them 200 of our books, on consignment, and … giving them the flexibility to price those books” as a start in transitioning to this new bookstore model.

Admittedly, Mr Sanfilippo perspective is that of a University Press publisher and he is focusing on independent bookstores.  However, ones suspects that unconventional ideas like his are needed if bookstores are to have a future.


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