For the true bibliophile, the book shop is one of the few retail experiences impossible to replicate online.
Yes, there are hundreds of extremely competitive ecommerce sites that offer cheaper-than-high-street books with free delivery, but what they're missing is the sensory experience of browsing a book shop's shelves; the touch, the smell and most importantly, the conversation.
I spent seven years working as a bookseller, and as my learned colleague Ben Davis will agree: once a bookseller, always a bookseller. It's impossible not to shoehorn one's innate love of books into most conversations.
Part of the joy of working with books is the interaction with the customers. It was extraordinarily easy to load up a customer with armfuls of recommendations when all they came into purchase was the latest Maeve Binchy.
This is where online book stores can match the offline experience: Conversation, interaction and engagement, all through the art of social proof.
I've previously gone into greater detail about social proof here: Whitbread and the power of social proof; this post mainly concentrated on the food, drink and leisure services as well as describing how social proofing works.
Here I'm going to use the examples discussed in that post and the examples in our 11 great ways to use social proof in ecommerce article to see how online book shops compare.
Competition is getting tough in the digital reader category. Tight margins and rapidly evolving devices are likely to thin the marketplace by next year. Currently, a price war is going on. Today, bookseller Borders lowered the price of its e-reader devices...again. Starting at $99, the Alarutek is the cheapest e-reader on the market.
Borders is trying to get back into the black with fewer stores and a focus on digital books. But can cheap prices and customer rewards save a business? That's not clear.