Independent Bookstores

March 30, 2011: Independent Bookstores

OK, independent bookstores may not exactly be hot, but perhaps they’re not as cold as previously thought. Yes, I know that dozens of Borders bookstores are closing all across the country, and Barnes & Noble took itself off the “for-sale” market.

And we are all too aware that the independent bookstore is dead, as was aptly illustrated by the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” Or is it? Last summer New York magazine ran an article saying that the indie bookstores were making a comeback. New York says these new bookstores “emphasize personal service and community, [hosting] book clubs, readings and charity projects.

At first the indies were buried by the big chain bookstores, but now all brick-and-mortar stores have been hurt by the online bookstores like Amazon, and the new popularity of e-books.  Last month USA Today featured an independent bookstore owner from upstate New York who was doing well enough that she was expanding her store by 1,000 square feet.

A few months ago Google launched a partnership program, which allows independent bookstore customers to buy books from the Google eBookstore through links on the small bookstore’s website. The indie bookseller gets to keep between 20 percent to 40 percent of the retail price.

Michael Cader, the founder of e-newsletter Publishers Lunch, told USA Today that bookstores can improve by experimenting with digital-delivery kiosks, on-demand printing, and self-publishing services. Cader added, “Maybe we’ll come to think of them as reading stores, or readers’ stores, or publishing stores, or idea stores, more than simply bookstores.

This is one trend I am personally rooting for. Owning my own bookstore was a dream of mine for many years. It could make a perfect “retirement” business for me in, say, 20 or so years.