Quill and Quire

Book news

« Back to

Indigo deals with the digital revolution

Information wants to be free, or so the popular bromide has it. Heather Reisman, CEO and “chief booklover” of Indigo Books & Music, has another formula: “All content wants to be digital.” According to an article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, the head of Canada’s largest book retailer thinks that the recent launch of the company’s digital bookselling platform Shortcovers will be insufficient to forestall what she projects (somewhat startlingly) as a 15% drop in book sales over the next five years due to the advent of a digital marketplace.

If traditional bricks-and-mortar bookstores are in peril due to the groundswell in digital publishing, currently the fastest-expanding segment of the market, Reisman’s response may seem counterintuitive. According to the Globe article, she plans to confront the digital revolution by enticing more parents, children, and teens into her stores. Granted, she plans to do this by stocking more non-book-related items:

She started by wooing children and their parents with toys about four years ago, after her research showed that 40 per cent of Indigo customers were adults with kids. Parents wanted educational and stimulating toys, not video games or battery-powered cars. (The chain promptly dropped in-store DVD monitors playing Dora the Explorer, after parents gave them a thumbs-down in a test run.) Ms. Reisman worried initially that the toys might cannibalize Indigo’s book sales, but in fact the stores with toys enjoy stronger book sales than those without, says chief merchant Joel Silver. Customers tend to stay longer in outlets with toys, and wander over to the books.

As for the teen market, Silver (who is not, as Quillblog first assumed, the guy who produced Die Hard) claims that teen sales have jumped 200% in the past five years, largely on the back of the Twilight series of teen-oriented vampire novels.

If Reisman is correct about content wanting to be digital (Quillblog will refrain from pointing out that content, like information, can’t want anything at all), then a move to entice more people into the chain’s stores may appear like one step forward and two steps back. On the other hand, Indigo wields such a stranglehold on the traditional book market in Canada that it’s probably not going to lose by beefing up its stores to attract a larger “ and younger “ clientele. In the event, the idea is so nutty it just might work.