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RC&D #1–Eliminate Book Departments and Book Buyers

November 24, 2008

If you are a middle-class “reader” (someone who can and wants to read), you probably enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning in a bookstore browsing the shelves, sipping on a latte, and rifling through the pages of dozens of books you might like to own.  But if you are a non-reader, this scenario isn’t just foreign, it is–to quote a non-reader friend of mine–“scary as hell.”  Bookstores intimidate the non-reader.  For them, bookstores and book departments are hardly “destinations.”

Bald man in the bookstore

That books need a destination-location within a store constitutes conventional, short-term merchandising strategy for selling books. But short-term is not the scope of this series of posts.  How book purveyors can produce long-term gains by converting America’s non-readers into readers, is.  This conversion process describes what I’m calling Reader Creation and Development (RC&D)


Readers will be developed when the cultural message is two-fold:

  1. Reading is essential to function (like breathing) and
  2. Reading is “hot” (fashionable enough to make one “cool”).

It will take both. Reading can’t be associated with your grandparents. It must SCREAM relevancy.  It must be inescapable.

To shift the current cultural message to a pro-reading culture, books must seem ubiquitous—everywhere all at once. Then, like cars, computers, and mobile phones, non-readers may be compelled to grab what they think they must have but are missing. Then reading can sire reading.

So, having a book section in a department store is all fine, if you are reader looking for a book.  But to redesign the environment for the creation and development of new readers, we must eliminate book sections and book buyers–and the assumptions that come with them–and…


Home design books should be in Home Decor; fishing books in Fishing; travel books in Luggage.   Some sections should be jammed with books–like Home Appliances.  Somebody somewhere has authored a book that sheds light on the world served by coffee makers, crock pots, blenders, and ovens.  Books should be in every nook and cranny  of the store.


  1. The real destinations in department stores are all the departments except books.  Placing a correlating book within the destination section where the consumer has already prioritized his buy honors the consumer’s choices. 
  2. Lifestyle-located books communicates a relevant connection between the consumer’s desires and the books:  you’re purchase (your life!) isn’t really complete without reading something…
  3. Non-readers don’t go to the book section for an impulse buy.  Unless I missed the memo, “impulse buy,” by definition, means that a consumer is shopping where he intends to be, he also picks up something unplanned.  If a person goes to the Camping section to buy a a tent, then picks up a book, too, the book is a true impulse buy.  You don’t walk from Camping to Books and buy impulsively–and why would you?
  4. It helps create the sense of book ubiquity:  you can’t go anywhere, do anything, without running into books.  Books must not appear to be the province of the privileged, snooty, smart, old few, but an essential fabric of society, even and especially (perhaps) consumer society.

Oh, I almost forgot:  I suggested the book buyers need to go, too.  Why?  Because the department managers/ buyers should have the expertise and creativity necessary to buy the right books for their department.

And one last thing…lifestyle-locating books, according to my Laura, will be unsatisfying for bibliophiles like us (Fiction would be a problem, for instance). And she’s probably right.  So, okay, I’ll compromise–don’t get rid of the book section.  Just put books everywhere else.  

I’ll bet book sales go way up significantly, even in the short-term.

RC&D #2–Hook Up With Hollywood


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