Clay Shirky recently discussed how the American Booksellers Association published an open letter to the Justice Department, asking them to investigate large superstores (such as Walmart, Target and Amazon) after they lowered prices of best-selling books to under $10. The reason for this:

If left unchecked, these predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public, and will allow the few remaining mega booksellers to raise prices to consumers unchecked.

What I found interesting was how Shirky went on to discuss how local bookstores would have to diversify and offer new services if they were to remain competitive in the market.

The core idea is to appeal to that small subset of customers who think of bookstores as their “third place”, alongside home and work. These people care about the store’s existence in physical (and therefore social) space.

By offering this ‘purple cow’ a business, such as the local bookstore, can effectively compete in this new marketplace where the price, the range of available books, ways of searching books, and getting recommendations and context are all vastly superior.

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