A bookstore in Paris, France has an Espresso Book Machine on its premises–and few physical books on its shelves. The owner’s reasoning for choosing the in-house printing technology is not unique. He cited rising rents and the overall expense involved with maintaining thousands of feet of space to accommodate hundreds of thousands of dormant titles.
Some years ago I discussed the statistics involving how few actual titles sell each week in a major bookstore. I explained that it’s not uncommon for a debut author’s work to remain unsold during the two to three weeks at most it’s allowed to take up shelf space. I also mentioned the high percentage of sales during any time period that involve very few different titles.
After these popular titles, the drop-off on the sales curve is enormous. As an example, a half-dozen books might compose 80 percent of a major bookstore’s entire sales over a one-week time frame. This is why book signings by lesser-known authors are so important. Even this seemingly minor activity can add a modicum of balance.
Regardless, it still holds that the vast majority of sales remain controlled by the current bestsellers. Not surprising, 90 percent of all works sold are by writers who are household names. Think James Patterson or Nora Roberts. It doesn’t take much calculus to understand that everyone else is fighting for the remaining ten percent.
All indicators point to why stocking books that don’t move is a poor business model. And I continue to suggest that the Espresso Book Machine will emerge as a the realistic disrupter. I also predict that Starbucks could become the premier bookseller in the world–and virtually overnight. Howard Schultz should consider printing books in his individual units. I believe this could become as an enormous profit center for Starbucks, and I’m dead serious about this.