Starbucks and star sales!

Eoin Purcell

Are we all missing the point?
Galleycat points to an exceptionally interesting post from Editor Jason Pinter[Page has gone awol]. Starbucks have been successfully selling vast quantities of their book choice: Ishmael Beah’s A LONG WAY GONE.

Jason makes what I think is the key point towards the end:

Of course Barnes & Noble sells thousands of books in their stores, while right now Starbucks is only selling one. At the same time, though, it’s very curious to see that Beah seems to be outpacing an author with a bestselling Oprah pedigree, primarily due to the efforts of one store. And that store being considerably more famous for their double venti half calf mocha lattechinos than their success pushing literature.

Obviously there’s a major difference between offering one book for sale and offering thousands. Not everyone who walks into a B&N has to buy THE DOUBLE BIND. You have a huge amount of options. At Starbucks, if you’re going to buy a book, you’re going to buy A LONG WAY GONE. So the answer is, of course, that Starbucks is not as influential on a larger scale than B&N. But it does make you think..

It does make you think. Here are a few things I wondered:

    1) What the hell are publishers getting wrong that they need to sell books from coffee-shops?
    2) What are booksellers doing wrong if they can lose that kind of trade to coffee-shops (especially if they already have coffee-shops internally)?
    3) Who are all these book buyers in Starbucks?
    4) Is the Starbucks Book of the month slot for sale?
    5) Why are we wondering and worrying about digital when don’t seem to know anything about who buys books right now?

Overall it just makes you wonder if anyone in the industry knows anything? Except for maybe Starbucks!

Waking to the smell of coffee?
Eoin

6 thoughts on “Starbucks and star sales!

  1. From what I have read, more and more bookstores are surviving by diversifying their offerings. One such means of diversification is opening up coffee shops within the bookstore. Coffee shops, especially Starbucks, are now “destinations” where people go to hang-out and socialize, so putting one in a bookstore should, at least in theory, bring people into the store–people who could look for books both while waiting for their coffee orders or while drinking their coffee. Starbucks just puts a backspin on the idea by selling coffee and offering books for customers to look at while they wait for their coffee.

    As pointed out in your blog, less selection does mean less distraction–who really reads past the top-billed names when looking at a movie’s one-sheet poster? I will pay more attention to a book if it is the only one on a counter, especially at a non-bookstore venue. The placement and venue makes the book more “special.”

  2. I suppose from the publisher’s point of view it comes down to the idea that given no choice people will buy what’s there, and if there’s only one book they’ll buy that, whereas if there are lots of books, customers might not buy their one.

    Whether it will work in the longer term, I don’t know. People might be buying for the novelty value, and if it becomes normal, they might begin to ignore the books.

  3. In my mind there is a distinct correlation between a Starbucks selection and an Ophra selection and it doesn’t surprise me that the Beah’s book and the Ablom title are doing well at Starbucks. The reason I think there is a correlation is that the Starbucks and Ophra brands are so strong we will may trust them to recommend anything (probably some limits!). Certainly there are some other factors at play – no other titles, spur of the moment purchasing, what have you – but I think we believe that the title is available at Starbucks because they have taken the time – like Ophra and Punch and Judy – to select the very best title that they believe their customers will like and value. Five or six years ago, no one would have predicted that Ophra would be able to move so many books and it took the industry by surprise. The point for publishers is that there are ‘influencers’ that captivate the media (and thereby consumers) that publishers need to identify, nurture and exploit. I think it will be the canny publisher that actually starts to build a list specifically of interest to an ‘influencer’ so that this person (or brand) can support and promote the titles as Starbucks or Ophra does. For example, what if Macmillan launched a Starbucks imprint to sell titles out of every outlet that were selected and ‘vetted’ by the Starbucks team. The books would be available everywhere else but at Starbucks the consumer would associate their warm fuzzy feeling about the brand to the product extension that are the books. Just a thought. (And I know its not Punch and Judy…)

  4. Cas and Frank,
    Thanks for the comments. I really do wish we had some more Starbuck type coffee shops in Ireland. And the more of them that are in books shops the better. As for limited selection being a factor, I wonder why anyone buys a book in Starbucks anyway? They go for coffee not books.

    I think you are much closer to the truth Personanondata. As Frank says the fact that Starbucks has become a place to hang out helps the building of trust in the Brand. I love the idea of an influencers imprint! Quality idea!

    Cas, I agree on the novelty point! I think it is critical that we find out if the effect is sustainable.
    Eoin

  5. I’ve just posted the answer to your first question about publishers getting it wrong, “Speaking of Starbucks.” But I wanted to mention that at least one writer (not corporate-sponsored) had a very successful book signing at a Phoenix Starbucks.

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