Now boarding: How airport bookstores are reacting to a changing industry
Kremer said Amazon especially is putting pressure on small airport bookstores because it discounts almost every book. Many people don’t want to pay high prices for books and they avoid that by shopping with Amazon or other online retailers. Kremer also said Amazon stays competitive by allowing free self-publishing, which puts books out into the market for low rates.
Hinckley said airport bookstores sell books that are pre-priced by the publishers, which means Hudson can’t control book prices. “At Hudson, we simply cannot afford to discount with the high cost of doing business in the airports and the high margins of other categories that we are competing with for space in the stores,” Hinckley said.
Larger bookstore chains — like Barnes and Noble and the now-closed Borders — struggled in changing times, too. Instead of being a store solely for books, they’d add cafes and dining areas, which hurt them more than helped, Briles said. Cafes and coffee shops would bring in a younger crowd, who wouldn't buy books and would socialize, she said.
So what can airport bookstores do to stay up with competition?
Kremer said airport bookstores are coming online, allowing people to see the content before they get to the store and find the right book they want. Airport bookstores are also creating an inviting environment for potential readers, something that can help them grow, he said. And they provide an outline for an impulse purchase about a regional work.
“I’m still very optimistic. I believe the good books will sell,” he said. “I think airport bookstores will be around for a while.”
“I think the bookstores that are going to survive have a personality to it, invite people to come in,” Briles said. “Those are going to survive because they have a captive audience.”
Briles also sees other options for airport bookstores. She said they should adapt to the changing market and start including more eBook readers and battery charging stations. Not only will that help the stores sell any eBook readers they have in-store – like Kobo, which is an independent eBook reader and is popular among independent booksellers, Kremer said, but it will also give them a chance to see the different books in store.
The Hudson Group doesn’t plan on selling eBook readers, Hinckley said, but the group will promote eBook reading applications, like Kobo’s app and Quick Response codes that bring people to online books.
She said airport bookstores are lucky to have an audience that likes to read.
“We are blessed in the airports with a massive audience of people who want to read,” she said. “If they support bookstores in airports, it enables us to offer more and to continue to evolve within our changing industry.
“I strongly believe that we will continue to have that opportunity,” she said, “so long as we continue to move aggressively to preserve and protect it.”