TAC’s Gracy Howard has compiled a list of recent advice given to the ailing bookstore chain Barnes & Noble. This stands out to me:

#2. Cultivate your ‘secret sauce’: the serendipitous experience of discovery.
Add opportunity for discovery by using more tables than bookshelves. “Physical discovery is the secret sauce of retailing and publishing.”
– Simon Lipskar, Writers House, Wall Street Journal

Create “a special mix of smart curation and easy browsing” with new-arrival bookshelves and interesting sections, to build the serendipitous experience.
– Virginia Postrel, Bloomberg

I’ll tell you why that clicks with me. The other day I stopped at a B&N in Baton Rouge to check on how well my book was selling (B&N has really been great with Little Way), and I found myself browsing the tables and came across a new popular physics book titled The Universe In The Rearview Mirror. The title caught my eye, because I’m always looking out for science books for my son. I flipped around in it, was charmed by several random passages, and bought the book. Matthew loved it so much he read it in a single night. Big score!

Later, I thought about how, well, serendipitous that was. I would never have come across that book online. Only by browsing. I love browsing in bookstores. Build me a serendipitous experience, and I will come!

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