Sunday, July 24, 2011

The book biz and Green Apple's future

A few month's ago, when Borders first announced the closing of a third of its stores, we wrote this. Now, with Borders completely liquidating, we are prompted to re-think (yet again) the future of bookselling and Green Apple Books.

In short, we feel the same way now as we did a few months ago. In fact, we may be more bullish. Here's why:
  1. Our Google eBooks are starting to catch on. Readers really are buying eBooks for all devices (except the proprietary Kindle) from Green Apple, and returning to buy more. We'll continue to promote this new service, as we aim to put good books and readers together, no matter the format.
  2. The Borders in the Stonestown mall is closing, so we have an opportunity to win some new customers. While their going-out-of-business sale may hurt us in the short term, being the lone big bookstore west of Stanyan Street can only help Green Apple.
  3. Amazon will soon have to collect sales tax in California, and other states are following suit. It may take a few months, or a few lawsuits, but it'll happen. It's about time the playing field was levelled, and Amazon is being excoriated in the media for their tax-dodging ways. See this and this and this and this and so on.
  4. Green Apple has a small expansion in the works. Nothing big, but we planto better maximize our return on the busiest used book buy counter in theBay Area.
  5. Many behind-the-scenes improvements are shoring up Green Apple's finances, like:
  • Dodd-Frank act should lower our debit fees;
  • Our annual company-wide health plan renewal increase was in the single digits;
  • Successful GroupOn and ScoutMob offers brought in new customers; and
  • We're reducing operational costs, like phone & Internet service.
There's still and always much more to do: revamp our website to better reflect the store, get our used books inventoried for easier shopping and better buying control, and so on.

And we're still very concerned about the health of the bigger industry: without healthy publishers, Green Apple can't thrive.

As we said in February, it's ultimately up to our customers. If they want Green Apple to survive, they have to buy books (or eBooks, CDs, DVDs, LPs, greeting cards, journals) here. So far, they do. So we'll keep adapting, reading, buying, shelving, shelf-talkering, and
making goofy videos.

Thanks for reading.
a Robin Allen photo, adapted


Anonymous said...

As someone who studies these models I see a bit of a hole in the logic. At this point, Green Apple are gate-keepers. You have to provide some reason to get me to buy and not go to Amazon. Here's the solution-IMHO-offer a subscription model to all Green Apple buyers. Have me (and others of course ;-) pay at $15 + a mon th fee for a 30-4@% discount on all items I buy. That way GA gets a consistent income and local support. The reality is that people vote with their pocket books no matter what. Your core audience will support you if you give them a way to...
J Hornsby, Green Apple Buyer...

Breadbaker said...

I wouldn't worry so much about the Borders going out of business sale harming you. I went to one of the stores near me and was surprised to see how the vaunted "40%" is really more like "10-30%", with the only thing on 40% off sale being magazines. They had taken all the non-remainder discounts (30% off bestsellers, two for one on selected books) off, so in some cases the prices on books had increased, not decreased. I walked out without buying anything.

Terrapin 92 said...

I'm with you Breadbaker.. just went to the Borders at Stonestown, and was pretty disappointed with the so-called sale. Even in liquidation, the prices just don't cut it. As a Richmond District resident, I'm loyal to Green Apple, but I do stray occasionally if there is an author event that interests me at one of the other city shops. So, GA staff, keep those author events coming! I hope you can find a business model that works and keeps old-fashioned book reading alive.

may said...

I agree with Breadbaker and Terrapin92. The discounts in Borders are barely even called discounts its only like 1-2 dollars off on most books. Although I did buy a few mangas there since Tokyopop shut down for good in North America, although I sorta regret it cuz some of the books had yellow pages and I hate my books to turn yellow, I like perfect brand new books untouched. You guys can count on winning me over to your bookstore. :)

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI, with liquidation sales the goal is to make money so they start the discounts low on things they know will sell well at, essentially, full price. The goal is to make as much as possible. I worked in the second round of closings and was amazed at how many people bought the items that were 10% off. Kids was wiped out within days of starting the sale whereas sections starting at 40% off had copious amounts of books at the end of the sale left in them. The discounts will also increase weekly or bi-weekly depending on the demand felt by the liquidators so eventually you'll be able to get books for ridiculous prices. Our store did a deal where you could buy 10 books for $5 near the end of the sale and had a weekend where your discount increased by 10% for every 2 books you purchased up to 80% off, which was also pretty awesome.

Pete said...

J Hornsby:
Thanks for your support and ideas. Alas, book biz margins are so slim (unless you're online only, predatory, avoid collecting sales tax, are mammoth enough to afford loss leaders, and don't have a unionized work force, health care for all workers, etc.) that your $15/month discount idea would sink us. Hopefully our customers will continue to find our curatorial skills, used books, friendly staff, remainders, and everything else worth the extra buck or two to keep us around. If everyone voted ONLY with their pocketbooks, we'd have been gone long ago.
Hope to see you in the store soon, and thanks again for the ideas! Keep 'em coming.