A Tour of Bookstore Websites
I spent two days last week looking at 87 different bookstore websites. After doing all that, I came to a couple of conclusions: 1. my eyes hurt and 2. bookstores do a poor job with their websites.
Obviously, most of us don’t have the funds to hire a web developer. However, I saw layouts that weren’t centered, words misspelled, and images that were of poor quality. Many of the websites didn’t have pictures of their stores at all. Isn’t this essential? If you are a brick-and-mortar only, you must have a website that will lure people into the store. I saw a story in a magazine that stated that a website is a company’s key to get customers through the door.
I did see some great sites. The ones I like, in particular, chronicle the life of the store from its inception. There’s a store in Georgia (boundtobereadbooks.com) that has great images of all the work being done, a story about the original concept, and well-places text and pictures. Nightbird Books (nightbirdbooks.com) uses something as simple as flikr to put all their photos in one place, making the interface super easy. I got the idea to put a gazebo into our store from the people at Books Plus.
In particular, I like bookstore websites so that I can keep track on how others operate their stores. I want to make sure that I’m current with the trends, trying my best to make our stores “POP”. I could probably write a book about web development using the pros and cons from the sites I’ve seen. While I haven’t used many direct ideas from other stores over the years, scanning all the web pages really gives you a good understanding of what the bookstore world is accomplishing. There are many stores that have been around for 30+ years. There are stores that are local destinations, well-known for being the best place to hang around. There are stores on islands, stores in bedroom communities, and stores in some of the most expensive areas of the biggest cities. Some stores have been around for decades; I think of The Strand in New York, particularly.
What incredible things bookstores have done! What wonderful things they are doing now, serving communities, keeping literacy in the forefront. Every decent town deserves a bookstore, and there are thousands of people trying to serve millions of patrons each and every week. Some of the stores are struggling. Even based on the list I use to look at bookstore websites, stores have come and gone. Some places have shut down their websites, some are advertising a total liquidation, and some are having so many odd sales that it looks like they’re desperate.
Yet, I recently saw a site that promoted a store’s second location. Another store had pictures of gobs of people for a recent author reading. Another store had a big name author, Karen Moning, doing a book signing. These are some of the neat things that a little ol’ bookshop can do. One store had Anderson Cooper dropping by; another had more book celebrities than I could count. People still respect small independents!
Now, back to the website thing… whatever you are doing, make it known! I would hope that no one has had a major author in their store without posting a few images on the web. Even if you’re not having events, put up something about your recent promotion, a picture of a new display, or simply an image of your newest stacks of books being traded. Give people a feel for your bookshop. Let them know that they need to check you out. Give them a reason to quick clicking and start walking.
If you’re still in the business, you do have a story to tell. The internet is the biggest way to tell that story… take advantage.
[Editor's Note: my personal favorite bookshop website is Between the Covers Tell us what bookshop websites you love..]