On Saturday I attended the CBA Super Saturday conference for indie booksellers. I sat in on a discussion that sparked a recurring dream of mine: Finding Hidden Money. Bronwyn Addico and Mandy Brouse (the winner of this year’s inaugural Chase Paymentech Young Bookseller of the Year), from Words Worth Books gave this talk and they were mostly talking about running events and the way that events should be run. First of all the similarities to the idea of providing local news in a hyperlocal model came to mind.
Meaning “extremely local,” it refers to news and information about events within a community. The term was coined with the advent of user-created journalism after the turn of the century as well as Web sites that publish only news and information such as real estate, cars and other items for sale, but targeted to a town or even a zip code.
Hyperlocal, citizen journalism, microlocal, whatever you want to call it, has provided some hope for journalism in the attempt to cover under serviced local events and markets. And this was something that Bronwyn suggested that bookstores do. Read the local paper, follow local twitter feeds (ok, she didn’t say that but I add it here) and find out what events are going on and approach them to have a table at the event. What they have discovered is that revenue from events is like 5-10 % of their annual revenue (not sure if that is gross or not). While they talked about this I thought about some “techie” things they could do to get “stickie”. First off I have been thinking that booksellers could really leverage QR codes at these events. These are codes that you can embed information in, take people to your website, maybe your newsletter—however you want to use them there is strong possibilities for marketing purposes. Publishers are using QR codes more and more to take people to author sites and even provide enhanced “pbooks”.
with thanks to Mark Bertils of http://indexmb.com/
The bookseller could have these QR codes on collateral for events—maybe on a poster, bookmark etc. Maybe the code has the list of books that they’re selling at the event for people to investigate later and maybe order from your website, maybe a list of promotions going on in the store, lots of ideas can emerge. True, QR codes are not that widespread, but people are getting more familiar with them and the bookstore will look like they are on the cutting edge. Low cost to get this kind of marketing initiative going.
I have also been thinking about publishing, surprising I know, but I have been especially thinking about it in connection with bookstores and thinking about ways that bookstores can leverage all the work they are investing in their newsletters and websites. The ideas coming out of web-first publishing are as relevant to bookstores as they are to a publishers—just like desktop publishing enabled bookstores to publish newsletters, webfirst publishing allows them to make books and the espresso machine allows them to print books for events etc. What I’m thinking is obviously connected with the McMaster bookstore experiment with Campus Chills, but maybe even something more marketing oriented like a history of your bookstore with photos of the olden days; maybe the notes from all of your bookclubs; your year’s top picks for all of your favourite categories. The possibilities here really are unlimited. I know bookstores that hold writing contests, poetry contests, essay contests, and this material could easily be turned into ebooks, website material, and pbooks with a fairly good margin for your store because you are the publisher and the seller, and it is good marketing.
“Please,” everyone is saying, “not more shitty books!” But seriously what are bookstores known for and good at? Curating, knowing the local community and being a center for all kinds of debate and dialogue. Why not extend those roles with easy to use technology?