Monday, March 22, 2010

United We Stand

The spring issue of Canadian Bookseller magazine (a publication of Canadian Booksellers Association) is out.

It includes an article I wrote called: "Better Booksellers Together" which covers various ways in which booksellers have successfully collaborated as well as the net effect these collaborations can have.

It would at first seem counterintuitive for independent operations to collaborate, particularly with a nearby bookstore that could potentially be a rival. But my article gives the perfect example of how two such booksellers have done so, quite successfully, for some time now with an incredible track record of success to show for it.

Similarly, the collaborative efforts between a small community bookstore and some other independently minded retailer make perfect sense.

Sure, an easy link between a bookstore and a coffee house have been around for a while, but what about some of the other not so immediate connections a person can make between a bookstore and another retail operation? Is there a possibility for a bookstore and a hotel to work together? What about a bookseller and a travel agency? Or a laundromat? Or a sporting goods store? Can you draw a connection between any two of them and see how they might be able to collaborate, help each other out and each become stronger and offer more to their customers?

The only thing stopping you from seeing the connections would be the limits we often impose on our creativity and free-spirited thinking.

Bookstores are a dynamic and critical element that are part of the complex mosaic of a local community. Drawing lines between a bookstore and any other neighbourhood businesses should be easy. And, in offering the customer more within their own community, make each business that much better.

And on the flip side of neighbourhood, one would think that geographic distance would make collaboration between booksellers in different regions difficult; but digital technology as well as the broad geographic divides that exist between us all make those types of collaborations unique, offering grounding within multiple communities while at the same time offering a connection that can be unique and lasting.

Similarly, collaborations between two physical locations is one thing, but bridging the gap between physical and virtual takes it one step further -- can you think of any ways in which customers can be better served by a wholly physical location working collaboratively with a service that does not occupy any physical space?

In any case, my article discusses various examples of how booksellers have been able to collaborate to each become stronger and offer more to their customers in the hopes that it offers booksellers food for thought when it comes to establishing their own collaborative efforts

The beauty with this type of strategy is that collaboration can be as small or simple as you'd like or as grand and complex as you're willing to attempt. Each opportunity, of course, has its own challenges and its own rewards. My article points out several different forward-thinking booksellers across our great nation who have collaborated quite successfully, making this business of bookselling, which so many of us are passionate about, that much better for ourselves and our customers.

If you already get Canadian Bookseller magazine, you should be reading each issue cover to cover -- in which case, you'll see my article on page 34.

And if you don't already get the magazine, you can read the article online here where the pdf is posted.

The latest issue of Canadian Bookseller magazine features Penguin Books on the cover -- they are celebrating 75 Great Years. I'm delighted with the great Canadian authors that Penguin Canada has published over the past several decades. (Speaking of collaborations, here's an oldy but a goody, a staple of bookseller collaboration -- my bookstore is collaborating with Penguin Canada for the official launch of Robert J. Sawyer's 10 city book tour for WATCH on March 31st)

Oh, and one last thing before I forget: Happy Birthday, Penguin! (I like your fancy polka-dot bow-tie -- and yes, I did notice that the polka dots are actually the official Penguin logo -- nice touch)

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