I've seen bookstores do unusual things to remain relevant in a changing world from opening a 3-story cultural center to pimping for ereaders and ebooks sold elsewhere. But this week I learned of an interesting bit of news that raises the question.
When does a bookstore stop being a bookstore? How much gadgetry can a store carry (replacing how many books?) before you need to come up with a new term for what a given store is doing?
I think Harvard Book Store is going to be able to answer that question in the not too distant future.
Earlier this week I caught a tweet from the bookseller in which they announced that they were now carrying Kobo ereaders. HBS has signed up with the ABA-Kobo partnership, and they are one of the 450+ ABA members who are selling the ereaders.
Normally that would not be newsworthy, but HBS is also one of a handful of bookstores which have an Espresso Book Machine. That puts this store in a select group of a dozen US booksellers (including Powell's, McNally Jackson, and Politics & Prose) which are selling both ereaders and POD books.
One could argue that these stores are still booksellers, but the fact of the matter is these booksellers are now gadget retailers and print shops. I've written about HBS and their Espresso Book Machine before, and one thing which is obvious the first moment you see it is that the big bulky machinery changes the vibe of the bookstore. Are you sure that these booksellers have the same character of a bookstore that they had before they joined the Collectives?
I truly do not know, myself. I just thought that this situation was interesting, and I wanted to see what others think.