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How Brick & Mortar Book Stores Can Beat Amazon

December 27, 2011
English: Borders in West Quay Retail Park, Sou...

Yes, Borders, there may be a way for brick and mortar stores to survive... and maybe even to thrive! Image via Wikipedia

A book buyer stepped into Brick & Mortar Booksellers with her smart phone in hand and approached a BM Bookseller associate. 

“Where can I find The Walking Dead books that the television show is based on?” the buyer asked. 

The BM associate walked the buyer to the graphic novel section of the store where the buyer promptly price checked the books on her Amazon app and added the first ten volumes to her Amazon cart. 

“I saved 15% by purchasing these books on Amazon,” the buyer said giddily.  “Where can I find The Hunger Games trilogy?” 

The BM associate escorted the buyer to the young adult section, where the buyer again price checked the books on her app and purchased the books from Amazon on her phone.  By the time she was done, the BM associate had walked the buyer through four different sections and the buyer had purchased twenty books on Amazon. 

“Would you care to buy anything here?” the BM associate asked drolly.  “Perhaps a muffin from the café?” 

“No,” the buyer proudly replied.  “I saved 20% by purchasing all these books on Amazon, and even with free shipping, I’ll receive my books tomorrow.” 

The buyer left BM Booksellers without even thanking the associate, but when the buyer stepped out to the parking lot, she discovered that her car was gone. 

Frantic, she rushed back into BM Booksellers and screamed, “My car has been stolen!!” 

“No, ma’am,” the associate said calmly.  “Your car has not been stolen.  It has been towed.” 

“But why did you tow my car?” the book buyer asked, perturbed. 

“Because the sign in the parking lot clearly states that the spots are for BM Bookseller customers only.” 

“But… but… but… that’s not fair,” the buyer stammered. 

“Maybe not,” the associate said.  “But if you download the BM Booksellers app to your smart phone, you’ll save 20% on your tow.” 


If I owned a traditional bookstore, I probably wouldn’t try this unless I had a really good lawyer. 

As most book buyers already understand, Amazon has a few advantages over the more traditional brick & mortar book stores.  Amazon customers don’t have to pay sales taxes.  Amazon pays for much less leasing space, and they probably don’t have to pay as many employees.  Since all these advantages have to do with money, Amazon can give better deals than traditional book stores and still make money (and I haven’t even included the money they make off the Kindle).   How can traditional book stores beat Amazon with so much working against them? 

First of all, by “beat Amazon” I really mean “compete with Amazon without going out of business.”  I’m not sure BM booksellers can beat Amazon unless they can get lawmakers to collect sales taxes on internet sales, and I bet internet stores like Amazon and ebay have awesome lobbyists, so good luck with that. 


I have never owned a business.  I work a full time job where I am bossed around a lot, so I probably have no idea what I am talking about from a business point of view.  All of my advice comes from my own buying habits.  I buy a lot of books and figure my habits probably aren’t unusual. 


I have a Kindle and like it.  I purchase books from Amazon, but I also buy books at traditional bookstores, so I’m not writing this column in an attempt to take down, “occupy,” or destroy Amazon. 

Here are a few things that traditional book stores can do (if they’re not already doing them). 


Amazon can sell books, but they can’t provide atmosphere and they can’t physically surround the buyers with the stuff they love.  Some niche readers (children’s book and YA literature readers, comic collectors, sports fanatics, mystery lovers, sci-fi fanboys, historians, science geeks, music freaks) love to be surrounded with books, posters, and other paraphernalia about their hobbies and love to talk to sales people who (pretend to) share their passions. 

A traditional book store can’t cover each niche equally, but a perceptive store owner can figure out what the book buyers in that community like and provide it in a way Amazon can’t. 


I’m the opposite of many Amazon buyers.  Instead of using the traditional book store to decide what books to buy on Amazon, I sometimes use Amazon to decide what books to buy at the traditional  book store.  I’ll browse through Amazon until I stumble upon an author I’ve never heard of and then read reviews of several book titles.  Then I’ll head to the book store (sometimes a used book store) and buy a bunch of paperbacks for a few bucks each. 

Yes, Amazon offers used stuff, but a lot of it is through independent sellers, and you have to deal with shipping prices, inconsistent packaging, and inaccurate descriptions of items.  When it comes to cheap paperbacks and used books, a traditional book store should have an advantage over Amazon. 


Aria Giovanni at AVN Expo

If she worked at BM Booksellers, a lot of guys would never shop at Amazon again! Image via Wikipedia

If a store owner needs to bring in more customers instantly, nothing increases business traffic more than hot women with cleavage.  Everybody likes hot women with cleavage (except maybe other hot women with cleavage).  I guess what I’m trying to say to book store owners is… hire some really hot women with cleavage. 

Guys that don’t even read much will go to a book store if there are enough hot women with cleavage working there.  It could be like Hooters, only with books.  Instead of serving buffalo wings, the hot chick associates could do dramatic readings of books.   Have a hot chick with cleavage dramatically interpret fine literature like Fear of Flying, and the store will be packed (or maybe shut down by authorities).

 Amazon is tough to beat when it comes to books that a lot of people are looking for.  But a hot woman with cleavage can convince guys to purchase books they otherwise wouldn’t buy, and Amazon would have a tough time doing that.  Amazon might have hot women with cleavage working there, but their skills are wasted because guys can’t see them. 

I’m not saying that my suggestions will save a book store that’s about to go under, but these strategies would allow a traditional book store to take advantage of Amazon’s weaknesses, and I’m sure that there are a bunch of other things I didn’t think of.  Remember, it took Amazon years to make a profit, so their business model isn’t perfect.  There are weaknesses that can be exploited, and it’s up to the traditional brick and mortar book stores to find (and exploit) those weaknesses.

One Comment
  1. hiring really hot women with cleavage already seems to be a default mode for any advertising business – just watch TV for any 15 minutes. So at some point it will stop being effective. Probably when I turn 75.

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