The collective wisdom tells us that the digital age means the end of neighborhood bookstores, and there's no doubt operating one has become a tough business. But a new business model may be emerging out of this devastation.
Barnes & Noble, one of the last major chains, reports its bookstore sales were down four percent in the last quarter, and we all know what happened to Borders. However, there are still new indie bookstores coming on the scene. The American Booksellers Association just announced they are aware of a total of 42 new indie bookstores that opened in 2012 in the U.S.
Figures on indie book closures were not available, so the net gain or loss nationwide is not determined. Plus, the bookstore model has always been a highly inefficient one. One of the last indie bookstores in center city Philadelphia just closed this past October. Nevertheless, it's still good to see new entrants with new concepts attempting to re-define and re-energize this market.
The ABA reports that some new entrants are even leveraging new business approaches through online services and social networks to launch. With more than $10,000 raised via the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, Chris and Gina Jones opened Monte Cristo Bookshop in New London, Connecticut, just in time for the holiday season. "Sales were triple our expectations, considering we have only marketed ourselves through social networking,” says Chris Jones. The holiday season proved to Jones that the New London needed a bookstore. “We were welcomed with open arms,” he said, adding that one customer entered the store clapping his hands.
California is home to seven new stores; New York, five; Florida and Texas, three; and Kansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, two. Among them were six branches of existing businesses and seven selling primarily used books.
“People were starting to regret, perhaps, the demise of the indie bookstore," says Linda Nurick, who opened Cellar Door Books in Riverside, California. Nurick has been asking customers about the books they want to read, books they have read and liked, or simply what they want to see in the store. Instead of placing a large order with a distributor, Nurick hand-picked each title that her store carries.
There's been a lot of discussion about the new ways books are being distributed in the digital age. To a large extent, the rise of e-readers is promoting book readership and sales. Some observers even suggest that print books may remain viable as high-end material, while works mainly read in e-book form may be the "pulp" paperback of the digital age. Digital is also helping to fuel the rise of independent, small-scale publishers and authors whose works may have never seen the light of day.
At the retail end, bookstores may need to continue to redefine their roles as community resources and perhaps even as for-profit community libraries in some form. Also, the coffee shop model has great appeal.
Here's a list of the new stores, reported by the ABA:
- Acorn Books, Dover, DE
- The Avid Reader Active, Davis, CA
- Bank of Books, Malibu, CA
- Bluebird Books, Hutchinson, KS
- The Book Nook & Java Shop, Montague, MI
- The Book Tree, Oakland, CA
- BookHampton, Mattituck, NY
- Booknuts! White Plains, MD
- Books and Other Found Things, Leesburg, VA
- Books on Broad, Camden, SC
- The Bookshelf Midtown, Tallahassee, FL
- BookTonix, Tarrytown, NY
- Cape Atlantic Book Company, Cape May, NJ
- Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA
- City Lit Books, Chicago, IL
- Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL
- Cuppa Pulp, Nanuet, NY
- Duck’s Cottage Downtown, Manteo, NC
- Face in a Book, El Dorado Hills, CA
- A Fiction Addiction, Syracuse, NY
- Finally Found Books, Black Diamond, WA
- Firefly Bookstore, Kutztown, PA
- Five Stone Bookstore, Lebanon, PA
- For Your Perusal, Grapevine, TX
- Glow Worm Used Books and Sundries, Spring, TX
- Kepler’s 2020, Menlo Park, CA
- Monte Cristo Bookshop, New London, CT
- Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, MN
- Ms. Wendy’s Wonderful World of Books, Saint Marys, GA
- Mysteryscape, Overland Park, KS
- New Bo Books, Cedar Rapids, IA
- Our Bookstore, Omaha, NE
- Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL
- The Peoples Book Shop, Mount Vernon, ME
- Peregrine Book Company, Prescott, AZ
- Phoenix Books Burlington, Burlington, VT
- SubText: A Bookstore, Saint Paul, MN
- Unicorn Books and Gifts, Ramona, CA
- A Very Little Bookstore, Summerville, SC
- Whitetale Books, Temple, TX
- Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe, Warwick, NY
(Photo: U.S. National Park Service.)