Namely, nowadays, with the growth of digital publishing and ecommerce, how important is the role of the bookseller?
This is, at the moment, one of the most pressing questions in the world of publishing and the one that most users consider a real provocation.
Let’s go step by step and try to get into the topic on tiptoe to really understand the task of the bookstore advisor in today’s lives, what are the main differences between independent bookshops and large franchises, but above all the pros and cons of a physical store and a digital one.
Perhaps not everyone knows that when I lived in Italy, I myself owned a neighborhood bookshop; to this day, despite the great commitment and difficulties, I consider it as one of the most beautiful and engaging experiences of my life. Why? Because the bond that is created between the user and the bookseller is a magical interweaving of mutual trust and loyalty that is difficult to find in other contexts.
If the reader is cuddled and “spoiled” he comes back, and if to welcome him there is a person who knows his tastes and can always advise him the right book for every occasion, he can’t avoid to remain faithful.
This is now the role of the book advisor, who resists the digital wave thanks to empathy and identification in the needs of his clientele.
The book advisor is not only a book seller, but a connoisseur and lover of reading in the first place, fond of words and a dreamer, who can see with the eye of creativity in his profession and who is devoted to his work with commitment and dedication.
In addition to the rest, the role he plays involves innovative research into ways to link the end user to himself. There are various ways to do this, among the most known and used there are workshops, book presentations with the presence of the authors and special events for new releases, which could also include discounts on purchases for the launch. I remember that for me these were the situations of greater interaction and great communion, first of all because they allowed me to get to know various authors of today’s publishing scene, then because I had the opportunity to compare directly with the users, learn what they loved and what instead were they indifferent to. As for the workshops with the little ones, I can let you imagine what children can give in just three hours of time spent together, between readings, dexterities, considerations and laughter.
But how does this figure change in large franchises? The main difference that can be found is that although the profile is similar, the salesman of a bookstore affiliated to a large distribution remains only that, a person who sells books. Intimacy and confidence are lost to give space to numbers; and if this, on the one hand, gives greater freedom of action to the clientele, on the other hand in my personal opinion it takes away very much from what is the purpose of a bookstore, that is gathering reading lovers and putting them in contact so that they can exchange ideas and comments and grow together.
Not to mention the fact that most of the franchises have large distributions behind their backs and therefore skip a passage in the so-called “book chain” from the producer to the consumer, allowing themselves to give greater discounts than those offered by a traditional bookseller, included by entering the bonus of a fidelity card.
And when we talk about e-commerce and digital versions? This is the case that intimidates most of the traditional booksellers. Because, clearly speaking, there is no competition.
Let’s start with the first case: the digital versions.
We are at the height of the technological era, where the key word is digitization. It is an inevitable process and there’s the need to adapt not to lag behind. More and more people prefer the formats .pdf, .epub, .mobi to the old paper, because it’s easier to obtain, just an email to which the file can be sent, and easy and light to carry, thanks to new devices like tablets and kindles where they can be reproduced without the weight of hundreds of printed pages.
This presupposes, however, the loss of an important part of the reading itself, the vehicle. The paper that emanates the typical smell of printing, the porous consistency of the sheet, the noise of slow leafing and the crossing of sentences on top of each other as the reading progresses, not to mention the perfect layout and the cover that gives us small inputs calling us to use our imagination to fill the unknowns. This stimulates all our senses to be activated and it’s the reason why the paper book is still so loved and it will be impossible, even in the future, to completely oust it from its role as king of publishing.
Instead let’s talk of online book sales sites.
These, having affiliations with large distributions and publishing groups, put on the cover prices very tasty discounts and allow you to receive with a minimum shipping cost, or sometimes for free, books directly at home, without the waste of energy and time to go to the library and physically search for the title that interests you. This option is loved by those who live in small towns where there are no bookshops, or those who want to enjoy reading without too many personal interactions or without bothering, namely by those who already consider obsolete the figure of the bookseller.
Many times I have been asked by my clientele why they should have continued to use my services, rather than ordering from internet, without bothering themselves and receiving a greater discount than the one I was able to apply. My answer most of the time was this: if you bought this book online, then who would you spend your time with talking about after reading it?
This is the key to reading the role of the bookseller, who is the one who accompanies you firstly in the choice, and once the reading is over, follows you in the path of imagination making your trip unforgettable.
Flavia from Flavia’s MIND.
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