The idea that the conventional book store is in trouble needs no introduction. Digital publishing, book discounting by giants like Amazon, the shift from high-street shopping to online shopping: these, and other reasons, have seen many book stores close in the past few years. Those that soldier on are forced to be ever more innovative in finding ways to bring customers through the door, and to the till armed with purchases. And an interesting idea, but one trialled so far by very few, is genre-specific book stores.
For some people, of course, the book store experience is about browsing across genres. Looking at the hotch-potch of titles laid out on display tables. Reading the blurb of a novel, then skimming a coffee-table art book, and then perhaps checking out the new picture books in search of a present for a little one. But those passionate about a particular genre of fiction may enter the big book store that stocks all sorts of titles and simply head for one section, where they spend the next few minutes seeing what’s new, and then sail out – perhaps with a new book; perhaps not – without looking at any other kind of book. How much more may that reader, that book buyer, engage if their section were bigger, brighter, more exciting – a world all on its own?
Imagine not just stores, but destinations. Places to support. Places to discover new books – and so much more. Just imagine young adult book stores. Crime thriller book stores. Literary fiction book stores. Romantic fiction book stores.
Being a romance writer, the latter idea most intrigues me. Imagine a store that’s sublimely romantic. Beautifully lit with lamps and candelabras. Playing soft, lilting music. Smelling of scented candles. Velvet armchairs and sofas scattered amid the bookcases, begging you to sit down and get lost in a book. Readers would flock there! We’d make it our second home, I think; use it as a kind of restorative therapy.
The genre-specific store is a proven entity: think of the classic comic-book store that you find in most major cities. It’s there not only to sell wares to those who love science fiction, fantasy and horror; but also to provide a hub for them – a place with which they identity and that they use as a means of identifying who they are.
Therein, perhaps, lies the issue for some genres. Would readers of erotic fiction want to be seen stepping into a book store specialising in that genre? Would crime thriller aficionados be confidently open with that association (and what gruesome décor may that store feature!). The idea has merits, still, across the genres, but is perhaps more workable for those genres that people proudly engage with.
But there is a solution to open the door across all genres: go digital. Publishers are increasingly launching genre-specific online stores. Take Diversion Books, for example, which has just opened EverAfter Romance – a store that sells ebooks from various publishers across the romance genre. There’s a website at www.everafterromance.com, but the crux of the activity is via an app, downloadable on both iOS and Android mobile devices, which offers access to 100,000 titles.
Going digital means it’s easy to create marketing campaigns that really get to the heart of what the reader wants. Rather than selling the idea of buying books, you’re selling the idea of buying the genre books only. So, for example, EverAfter Romance offers to give those who sign up alerts about recommendations, flash sales and free eBooks. That way, it will keep in contact with readers and regularly present them with ideas for new purchases; much easier marketing than the physical book store must undertake, given that its readers need to walk past for it to hook them in.
What do you think? Would you go into a genre-specific book store? For which genres would you love to see dedicated stores? Do you shop at any online stores that specialise in one or just a few genres? How do you compare that to shopping at an all-books online store? I would love to hear your thoughts.