Situating the industry
It is obvious, and anything but surprising, that the rise of the digital age and the increasing use of technology is wiping out certain businesses, book stores being one of many. By the end of 2011, a survey found that 43% of Americans over 16 read long-form content, defined as books, newspaper articles, and magazines, in digital format . The continued rise in e-books and the expansion of e-tailers like Amazon lead to the down-sizing and closure of many large bookstore chains, most famously, Borders [3,4]. As a previous Borders’ manager puts it, “A comet killed the dinosaurs. I’m afraid the internet is that comet and Borders is one of those dinosaurs” .
Harvard Book Store
Stepping away from industry trends and the big picture for a second, we know that mega-chain book stores are taking a hit because of digitization, but what about the small players? Over the Charles, in our own backyard, the Harvard Book Store stands [see image below, 5]. The store has been in operation since 1932 and has become a landmark in Cambridge  with thousands of tourists, students, and locals flocking in weekly. Since its opening, the book store has always been independently owned and in 2008, the book store was sold to Jeff Mayersohn. Mayersohn, a book lover and retiree of the tech world, understood the magnitude of his responsibility in ensuring the continued success of the Harvard Book Store.
In the US, e-book sales have been increasing at double digit rates while sales of printed books were falling . Mayersohn saw the trend first hand in the store he had bought. He recounts seeing customers come into the shop, spend some time browsing, find a nice corner to get comfortable, and spend some time reading. If they liked the book, they would proceed to pull out their smart phones and order the book online . Having access to the universe’s entire library with a few clicks on a smart phone or a download on an e-reader was too convenient. People often came to the store, but no one thought of it as a shop anymore; it was now a place to relax and read.
Mayersohn theorized that customers liked the digital libraries, Amazon, e-books, etc. for a few key reasons: unlimited options, instant gratification, and a dependable delivery system. Studies looking to understand the massive rise in the use of digital libraries and electronic reading devices supported his theory . He decided to try to get the Harvard Book Store to fulfill the aforementioned customer expectation. What if the book store could provide access to every book ever published? Was there a way to produce, deliver, and distribute content at the same rate as the digital versions?
When creativity meets technology
The answer was, yes. Mayersohn used his background in technology to completely transform the business model. He decided to install an Espresso Book Machine (EBM), a device that prints any book from the public domain in minutes [10, see image below 11]. With libraries increasingly converting their titles into e-format and adding them to digital libraries, more and more titles found themselves in the public domain. This meant the EBM’s catalogue was growing, at no cost to the book store. Additionally, the EBM could also print custom publications meaning patrons of the store could get their own works published, serving as an additional revenue source. This one machine allowed the customer expectation for more book options and instant gratification to be met. In fact, the machine redefines “instant” as it is faster than purchasing a book online. Operationally, it decreased the inventory that had to be carried, saving costs, and customers were able to get their hands on any book they desired, even hard-to-find or out-of-print titles.
To further make use of the EBM and implement an e-tailer model that was now mainstream, the book store’s website was overhauled to allow online orders. Mayersohn added guaranteed same-day delivery for customers living in the Cambridge/Allston area. This allowed him to achieve the third customer expectation of reliable delivery. Realizing how technology could boost his business, Mayersohn leveraged social media. He used it to market the EBM, reeling in new customers and maintaining engagement with current ones. He also used the platform to drive people to the brick-and-mortar store by advertising superior customer service provided by passionate booklovers.
In conclusion, the Harvard Book Shop serves as an incredible example of how technology was able to revive a dying business. Mayersohn realized that people fundamentally preferred the easy, click-of-a-button option, but many still valued the experience of browsing, spending time in, or visiting a book store. He was able to merge the two desires by allowing patrons to walk that path of least resistance in a physical location.
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 “The real cliffhanger.” The Economist. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/02/future-bookstore>.
 Raine, Lee et al. “The rise of e-reading.” Pew Research Center. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/>.
 Borders Group. New York Southern Bankruptcy Court. Accessed Nov. 2016. <https://www.pacermonitor.com/view/NSNXPWY/Borders_Group__nysbke-11-10614__0001.0.pdf>
 Bomey, Nathan. “Ann Arbor bookstore chain files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.” The Ann Arbor News. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/borders-bankruptcy-ann-arbor-books/>.
 The Harvard Bookstore. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://www.harvard.com/about/history/>.
 The Harvard Bookstore. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://www.harvard.com/about/hbs_in_brief/>.
 McNeil, Sophie. “Five Key Trends in the Book Market.” Penguin Random House. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://authornews.penguinrandomhouse.com/five-key-book-market-trends/>.
 Johnson, Phil. “The Man Who Took on Amazon and Saved a Bookstore.” Forbes. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/philjohnson/2012/05/10/the-man-who-took-on-amazon-and-saved-a-bookstore/#305bab2b4204>.
 Tveit, Ase K. et al. “A joker in the class: Teenage readers’ attitudes and preferences to reading on different devices.” Library and Information Research. Accessed Nov. 2016 from Elsevier. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740818814000516>.
 “Overview of the Espresso Book Machine.” On Demand Books. Accessed Nov. 2016. <http://ondemandbooks.com/ebm_overview.php>.
 Image. Accessed Nov. 2016. <https://laughingsquid.com/wp-content/uploads/6256317164_b132e2154c_b.jpg>.