Gerald Sindell has an essay on the Huffington Post about how people are using bookstores as a browsing ground for Amazon.com. The money shot is right here:
If I ran City Lights and wanted to stay in business, I'd put big signs in the windows and behind the cash register: "We'll meet Amazon's Price!" Apparently City Lights management believes that they can't make enough money trying to match Amazon, but I have news — making $7 on a book is better than making nothing on it. The day I was there thousands of dollars in sales were being lost. And as long as you have the traffic, do what the carwashes do. Sell other stuff to your customers at full price: accessories like reading lamps and bookmarks, gift cards, even Smithfield hams, dammit! But don't turn your bookstore into a browsing facility for Amazon. You can't go on like this.
I think, having seen the financial records for a couple of bookstores now, that this wouldn't work at all: The profit margin on books is so slim that it's impossible to make money if everything is at least 20% off. But still, I'm surprised that no bookstore has tried this, yet. It's one of those it's-so-crazy-it-might-just-work ideas. Business would have to improve at an exponential level, but it might be within the realm of possibility, as long as that bookstore had a caveat that it could match up to 40% off. Loss leaders like The Lost Symbol or Under the Dome, which sold below cost at Amazon and other outlets that don't rely solely on book sales, would put a bookstore out of business immediately. I'm not sure that book sidelines are enough of a market to save a business, either.
In other news, Harlequin reported that customers downloaded nearly three million romance e-books last year. Of course, they were free.