Another bookstore has shut down. I am standing where it was, gaping at the spanking new toy store that has opened in its place.

I am devastated.


But, I don’t want to lament about the loss of the reading habit or resort to emotional appeals here. I think bookstores also need to think their strategy afresh.

Bookstores have not changed much over the last few decades – same old shelves stacked with books, same old stationery section, and same old discounted shelves. I don’t see any innovation out there.

Look at vegetables for instance. From mud-encrusted raggedy heaps sold on carts to sorted, shiny stacks to cut veggies in boxes: lots has been happening there.  Why not in the book world?

We can crib that the reading habit is declining. No one likes to read books. But, then, no one likes to eat spinach either. We don’t give up on that front, right? We stuff it in ravioli, we sneak it in in raitas, and layer it in parathas. Because we know it’s good for us! The same holds true for books.

Bookstores need to innovate to sell better. Here are my ideas:-

  1. Have a store-in-store in toy shops. Have offers which bundle toys with them.
  2. Have florists add books in bouquets. Bouquets are themed around flowers. How about theming them around books? Like a ‘humour’ bouquet or a ‘love’ bouquet.
  3. Encourage weddings to include them as return gifts.
  4. Create hampers, like the ones we see with jams and bakes. Books and bakes! Position them for special events like baby showers and bridal parties.
  5. First book, then burger – Have roaming sales-people asking parents to buy the kids a book, then a burger.
  6. Have store-in-store in beauty parlours telling ladies to make their minds also beautiful.Package books with creams and lotions.
  7. Have roaming sales-people in tech-parks. Maybe, where they congregate to smoke. Tell them to fire their imagination before snuffing out their lungs.
  8. Have book-themed birthday parties. This way. bookstores can add a new revenue stream. Imagine how lovely would it be for kids to have a Harry Potter-themed party with the books as return gifts?
  9. Tie up with outbound specialists for book-themed treks/water sports/walks. How about a trek in the Himalayas built around Ruskin Bond’s books?
  10. Beer and Books: Get breweries to have drinking games based on books. The last man standing gets a beer and books hamper!

Bookstores need to move out of bookstores. If they don’t come to you, you go to them. Don’t give up please. It’s a war out there. If you cannot re-strategize to win it, who can?