This winter and spring have been rejuvenating in many ways, not the least of which is because I finally got the gumption to ask our dear customers what they thought of Ye Olde Bookworks, in all its crowded-shelved, uneven-floored, paper-based glory. Things are changing in consumer culture–and that doesn’t apply just to books–and we want to stay relevant to our beloved island community. (Meaning we want to keep providing things that people want!) So we asked.*
*If you didn’t get a chance to respond yet, just click right here.
And what did we find out? Well we had lots of great feedback, but as for clear direction… it’s still complicated. Overall, there was great consensus that people don’t want to see us reduce our inventory of physical books, so we will certainly hope to oblige. People love our hours, so we’ll keep that tradition up as well. Many people that have E-Readers other than Kindles are willing to try E-Books from our website, provided it’s not too hard to figure out. Many people say they would love to shop with us more but parking is a pain. (‘Twas ever thus.) And lastly many people opined their wish that we had space to offer refreshments. Them and me both is all I can say to that!
For the still curious, here’s an overview of the results from the basic multiple-choice questions:
- 73% of those who responded are year-round island residents
- The top three categories of purchases listed were: 1) Books for adults 2) Gifts 3) Cards & Stationery.
- Less emphasis was placed on books for kids and toys & games, which surprised me, but then they are mainly huge in the summer.
- The number one reason people shop at Bookworks is to “Support the local economy” followed by “Sense of community
- Price was listed as the number one deterrent, with selection and parking following close behind.
- There is strong interest in us offering more events of all types.
- There is strong interest in us offering used & antiquarian books.
- When it came to E-Books, 42% of our respondees said “No way, not ever” would they have an E-Reader, which I found surprisingly high.
- When told that we sell E-Books on our website, the majority said they would buy from us if the price was the same and if we offered support & help.
All that was very interesting indeed, and believe me I’ve been mulling it all over. However, the real meat of the matter came in via the open comment fields, which were included under almost every question. People were very generous with their time and made wonderful suggestions, and they also did not hold back from sharing criticism. This was particularly valuable.
Here is a small smattering of direct quotes. Some I list for the sake of the industry, some for the sake of my staff, and some to elicit further comment. (I should note that the survey was confidential, so I have no idea who said what.)
- “I love bookworks and will continue to support your store. … The reason I don’t buy more books is only because I’m trying to have less stuff and borrow from the library more. … I do like the idea of fostering communication, interaction with others, community by having an area to sit, read, write, drink a cup of coffee…but this would likely mean you’d need a bigger space, don’t know if that is an option.”
- “How anyone can prefer holding a plastic device to turning the pages of a real book is beyond me. I love your little shop and I pray that it can continue. It is the first place I go the first night I am on island.”
- “Keep up all your good work. Independant bookstores are a must for an informed, literate culture.”
- “Add a mid-island location?? A Bookworks library out at cisco? Read with meade? Brewworks? Cisco cafe? you could run book clubs, a la stitch and bitch. More is better though you guys do a great job with what you do.”
- “I certainly hope Bookworks survives the seachange in reading that is upon us. Perhaps adding a used book section would help.”
- “A “take-it-or-leave it” section?”
- “A little coffee area? wine?”
- “Regrettably two book shops is simply one too many for this town with its excellent library (including e-access).”
- “It would be great to have a selection of magazines and periodicals, foreign and domestic, that are not carried elsewhere (like at The Hub). This could cover a spectrum of topics such as literature, politics, fashion, health, esoterica, and art, just to name a few.”
- “You had an AMAZING selection a few years ago…now…not so much.”
- “Rental of books on cd.”
- “Selected CD’s and DVD’s. A lot of bookstores off island have Putamayo selections of ethnic music. Is there some distributor with a classical music and classic movie DVD and jazz CD program tailored to put a selection of disks in stores for those of us who don’t steal our music? This is one area where I still spend heavily at Amazon, and there is no competition on Nantucket.” [note-we’ve been selling Putumayo for several years]
- “Reading glasses & cases exotic tea & honey & crumpet selection ? summer saturday morning outdoor book sale ?”
- “You guys are great. Other than valet parking, I don’t know what you could do better.”
- “When I go off-island to my favorite independent bookseller, they have a section of very high quality, well selected, current and classic discounted books: remainders, hardcovers now out in paperback, printer’s overstock, ect. (Check out Book/Book in NYC to see what I mean). I wish you’d consider something along these lines.”
- “What would Nantucket be without Bookworks , Mitchells and a thriving public library ! I’m proud to be a part of a community that supports these valuable entities.”
- “Love the gestalt, and i believe that local bookstores are the cornerstone of (what remains of) a free society.”
There were also many many comments about our service, some raving and some ranting. In many ways this was the most useful part of the excercise, because we think of ourselves as a helpful and fun-loving bunch! The fact that we had even one person dissatisfied with service would have been distressing enough, but there were a couple of comments to that effect and we’re taking it very seriously indeed. On the other hand, so glad the rest of you had a good experience!
So what will we do with all this info? First off, we are ramping up our events schedule, beginning with more events for kids and plans in the works for book clubs and the like. We are looking for ways to fit used books in, perhaps seasonally, and we would love to know if someone has a suitable space at affordable rent for an offshoot. We will be putting more emphasis into training, and we will have more shelftalkers and recommendations in the store. Also, we hope to add more magazines not sold at other locations on island. Keep your eyes peeled for this good stuff and please keep your great ideas coming.
Okay, off I go to IMPLEMENT!