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Can crowdfunding save the independent bookstore?

Posting in Finance

Over the years, Amazon and other bookselling giants have increasingly encroached on the profit margins of their independent counterparts, and the smaller stores have had to get creative to lure in customers.

But with Amazon's cheap prices and Barnes & Noble's sheer selection, it's been an uphill climb for independent bookstores to hang on to their customers. Now, a growing number of these store owners are taking a new approach: asking for donations.

Over the last few years, crowdfunding has become a successful way of supporting creative projects without having to rely on traditional sources of investment. But crowdfunding as a way of keeping independent businesses afloat?

The practice has helped to keep bookstores around the country from closing. San Francisco's Adobe Books raised $60,000 in March to keep its doors open; Asheville, N.C.'s Spellbound Children's Bookshop raised $5,000 in moving costs when it had to relocate; and Manhattan's Books of Wonder brought in $50,000 in donations in an online campaign last year.

As finances have gotten increasingly tight, many booksellers have looked to outlets like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to tap into their customers' loyalty. Donors can contribute as little as $5 or $10. Josh Mills, manager of Chico, California's The Bookstore, raised $36,068 on Indiegogo, mostly in donations of $15 and $25 from members of the community who did not want to see the store close.

Crowdfunding is at best a stopgap measure for booksellers against the increasing pressure from megastores and online sellers. But as many shop owners have found, those who value independent bookstores are passionate about them. As Daniel Goldin, owner of Milwaukee's Boswell Book Company, said, "a lot of customers position us in their head like the nonprofits they support, like a humane society or a park.”

Photo: Tim Pierce

via [The New York Times]

— By on August 11, 2013, 9:27 PM PST

Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure