If only I had a ton of money, I'd open a bookstore. Really.
When Borders closed its stores, much of the Philadelphia metro area lost easy access to books. That's not to say that some physical bookstores don't remain. There are a few Barnes and Nobles, though they are absent in areas I suspect house many of the remaining consumers of hard-copy books. There are a very few independent bookstores selling new books - my local favorites are Joseph Fox and Children's Book World. There are some niche stores: Whodunit. And of course there are a few used bookstores.
But I cannot comprehend, for example, why Philly's Main Line suburbs - home to two successful and large Borders - do not yet have an independent or chain general interest bookstore. And I suspect that several other areas of the country are similarly experiencing a disconnect between supply and demand.
I understand the general problem: Amazon is crushing the competiton with low prices and infinite selection. Yet after a trip to upstate New York - and delightful,smartly curated little bookshops like the Spotty Dog Books and Ale in Hudson and the Golden Notebook in Woodstock - it appears that a few entrepreneurs have found the market gap. Maybe it's not random that these towns get lots of vacationers.
Here are some things that seem essential for new bookstores to flourish today. First, they must be well-curated. Few stores can afford the rent and inventory to provide a comprehensive library on-demand. Even B&N seems to be abandoning that aspiration. And there is good reason: if you really need a book NOW, you can often get it digitally NOW in your HOUSE. But many readers want to discover gems can provide that guidance.
Second, bookstores must build human and community ties that cause readers to pay slightly higher prices than on Amazon. Good curation will be lost if customers simply use the store for ideas...and order online. But because many people value the existence of a bookstore, they may be willing to spend more at least on occasion. Buyers need to have some skin in the game - one way to create this might be through Bookstore Co-ops. Bookstores can also use their space to support community activities - and these activities could be tied to fundraising.
Third, bookstores must be destinations. Cafes, bars music...all of these provide a second reason to go to the bookstore. Kramerbooks in DC has used and drink as a magnet for years.
Hey: at least Amazon will likely lose its tax advantage soon.