Bookstore as Printing Press?

Hardly a week goes by any more without an article appearing on some national Web site exclaiming over and bemoaning the loss of brick-and-mortar bookstores. As an author, I’m a bit sad to see this happening but in reality the publishers and the store chains have nobody to blame but themselves. If you don’t keep abreast of disruptive technology, you will be disrupted. Resistance is futile. Adaptation is mandatory.

Even today, bookstores could transform themselves at least in part and learn to thrive on the eBook explosion. Here’s one way they could do that.

Print-on-demand system may save bookstores

Print-on-demand system may save bookstores

Have good, really usable, informative Web sites through which buyers can explore and make purchasing decisions about books. Then in addition to a choice of eBook or printed book, offer a third path: the printed-on-demand eBook. By equipping themselves with a sufficient number of high-end (fast, high-quality) printers, bookstores could:

  • get me to come into the store to pick up the printed copy of the book I just ordered, in addition to or instead of the electronic version
  • give me a choice of printing formats (sizes, colors, paper quality, binding, etc.)
  • combine two or more works into one printed book even if the works are by different authors
  • get me to look at other books and reading-related products while I’m in the store picking up my printed book

In other words, they could supply the bookstore equivalent of the Last Mile of cable and fiber: save me from having to print an eBook on a slow, low-quality printer whose cartridges are enormously expensive and always empty when you need them most.

I’m astonished nobody’s tried this business model yet.

Maybe there’s a fatal flaw you can point out to me?


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