Blogger: Rachel Kent
Our agency received a notification in the mail yesterday from The United Methodist Publishing House about the closing of the 56 Cokesbury stores nationwide. This closure has also been reported online on sites like ECPA.org. The mailing about the closure is upbeat and describes the changeover to CokesburyNext–a four-part sales solution. The four parts include a phone call center, online stores, conference sales, and a direct-to-churches sales team. They aren’t going out of business, but they are changing their business to fit with consumer preferences.
I don’t like to be depressing, but no matter how optimistic we are we have to see this as one more sign that the bookstore might become a thing of the past if it can’t develop a unique contribution to the book buyer’s life. The internet is such a strong force and online companies like Amazon.com and Christianbook.com make it easy to quickly buy a book at a great price without leaving the house. Bookstores can’t offer a big enough discount to compete with these online retailers–especially when services like Amazon Prime make the shipping practically free.
I love bookstores! Browsing is such a pleasure, and I love finding a new favorite author through the one or two books I buy per visit. But even I–a bookstore and book lover–am not going to bookstores all that frequently. I have a Kindle, and the draw of the convenience of the internet is strong. I probably go to a bookstore six times a year (once every two months).
As authors and readers, what do we do about this shift in the book industry? I suggest two things:
1) Support our local bookstores! Even with the decline in bookstores, the remaining stores are very important parts of the publishing industry. Buy books from the store and do book-signings or speaking engagements at the store too. If a book club or local group wants you to speak to them, see if you can arrange to have the meeting at the bookstore or to have the bookstore set up a table at the back of the event instead of bringing in your own books to sell.
2) While supporting the remaining stores, remember to face the reality that the bookstore sales avenue is slowing down. Find new ways to help your publisher sell your books. Get creative with marketing and find out what works well to reach your audience.
Did you have a Cokesbury store near you?
How many times per year would you say you visit a bookstore?
How do you feel about bookstores possibly disappearing? Do you think it’s time to move on, or should we try to save them?