Skip to comments.Could mom-and-pop bookstores return?
Posted on 10/21/2010 1:08:45 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
...my generation is the bridge between the golden years of print newspapers and now, for better or worse, news by iPhone. Nothing in publishing is as consistently unchanging as change... America was built on competition and innovation. Challenges are meant to be embraced and met. And when I hear independent booksellers complaining about big-box retailers pushing them out of business, I am reminded of a great bit of wisdom my mother dispensed once...
In the town where I live, I heard retailers decrying a move by Wal-Mart to put a store on the outskirts of town. "They'll kill business!" was the usual cry.
But my dear mother said, "They complain about competition from Wal-Mart, but I remember when these mercantiles were the only game in town and they raised prices because they knew people had little choice. So the story goes both ways."
She's quite correct, of course. Which brings me to the real state of book-selling in America: Nobody is so big they crush smaller competitors forever. Often, as with everything else in life, one needs only some good old-fashioned perseverance.
It was reported some months ago that the Borders chain was experiencing severe cash-flow problems. It's hard to believe, if you see the gleaming stores from the sidewalk and then venture in to partake of the easy atmosphere, coffee and treasure trove of books... Then this week, it was announced that B&N wasn't immune from trouble, either...
I spend quite a bit of time schlepping through airports, and while I do want, as my geek brother-in-law mocks, a computer the size of a matchbox ("Yes, I do, Brent"), I want it because my love of reading puts straining weight on my luggage. I'd trade four hardcover books and shoulder surgery for an e-reader...
(Excerpt) Read more at wnd.com ...
“Mom & Pop’s” will return if they have a Starbucks, big comfy easy chairs for stinky libs to lounge around in all day and if they hide Glenn Beck books for liberal tripe like “Why Daddy is a Democrat” and “Why Momma voted For Obama”. Then yes, they’ll come back.
Well....get ready for “You’ve Got Mail II “.
They will be back when livery stables and ice locker plants return. Look for them over by the record store.
One of those Kindle / Nook / iPad / “You’ve Got Mail” kinds of topics.
Hey, the enormous chain bookstore used to be on east 28th St in Grand Rapids; this season it’s a Halloween party store which will be gone early in November I’m sure. Over a year ago B&N built a two story glass (and escalators? I’ve only been in there twice) loud declasse’ book pusher type store, like the B&N Express format, but a little less fun. And it’s inside Woodland Mall, right where it’s difficult to get a parking spot.
All I have to say is, they must be kidding. Gone are the nice comfy chairs which do more to sell books to actual readers than does any ad campaign. Do the brains behind B&N really believe that the mall shoppers really offset what must be a high cost per foot lease rate?
I order a lot of used paperbacks from them all of the time.
The brick and mortar book store is over. Samething with Video Rental stores. I think you should put your money on tattoo and body piercing. That will never go out of style.
I do occasionally visit Half Price Books in search of a bargain; but that's about all.
If you POINT them to quality and deliver something “the others ain't got”, then you can survive.
That may be bringing more authors through on book tours. That may be offering USED as well as new merchandise.
If you think you can compete on price and selection, Amazon.com will eat your lunch because they just “list” the full Books In Print catalog so they list things “they think they can get” and offer deep enough discount pricing that you probably won't beat them there.
So you need “impulse” purchasing (this book is so interesting, I have to buy it now) and dependable “evergreen” books that will always sell (won't go out of date but someone who's never seen it before or is looking for a gift will buy a copy).
Having a guest in the store associated with the book also leads to a “buy it now” mentality and offers something that the online retailers don't.
But Barnes & Noble, Borders, Bookstop, et al BORE me. They all offer the same 120 books in any category I frequent. There will be books that I know are out there that they never stock. I won't “special order” a copy because I can do it my self, online, faster, and cheaper. I want to “look and feel” and then buy a copy.
Also so many publishers/distributors are dumping books on the market at reduced pricing sometimes 6 months after they come out. I don't like getting burned paying full price for something I can buy new at Half Price Books 6-9 months later.
Find a niche and market to it. Having some out of print and discount titles also keeps you competitive.
Record stores are still around. Independent shops. Selling CDs and Vinyl.
VirginSoundwareHauSamGoodyGotIt lost out on the price war to Best Buy. Best Buy offers CDs cheaper than other stores are paying wholesale. And bundling titles with exclusive bonus CDs and DVDs.
Besides, the whole record biz isn’t making the numbers it used too. Radio doesn’t draw the same audience either. Too much control over the public’s taste. The public went elsewhere. Indie stores never had “crazy” numbers to begin with. But there is still enough new and used trade to stay in business. Keep the inventory moving. Don’t sit on “collector’s items” that “one day” will pay the rent. Price them to move.
I had a serious offer towards purchasing a bookstore.
The problem is that I know what I want to offer and sell but I don’t know whether I’d be successful at doing so.
Even the livery stables exist in parts of the Andes. I saw an ice plant out in east Texas in 2009.
You can find 8 track tapes and slide rules if you look hard. There are Caribbean cruises with three masted clippers, for that matter.
But all these things are never going to be viable in every small city again.
In 1998, when I first began collecting electronic books (with a complete set of The Shadow novels in .pdf electronic books were a niche item. Today things have reversed. I do not expect a second reversal.
The Big-Chain-Brick-&-Mortars rely on coffee sales, annual discount membership fees, magazine sales (which are on a “returnable” basis), greeting cards, toys, cookie sales, publishers paid promotional fees (what’s okay for retail is called payola in radio but not tv).
Basically a whole lot of other revenue sources.
E-books means selling a “license” to read to some virtual books (no inventory to maintain, no shoplifting, and many of those books are already public domain so no royalty...).
Takes a lot of money coming in the door to maintain those large brick and mortars that employee slackers who do things like HIDING conservative books in back rooms and in the wrong sections DESPITE it being against the bottom line of the “corporation”. In a smaller bookstore, you would be readily fired for being unable to do the job of getting the books in the right section or in the display that the publisher paid for (through “incentives”).
Are PDFs still going to be readable in 150 years? I have books that old in my library already.
The printed word will long outlive the propritary rights digital word by many generations.
If mankind moves too much into a “virtual” existence, written history will become lost to the ages.
As it stands now, newspaper publishers “revise” their articles (now AP and Washington Post are doing it without even NOTING that they corrected errors or toned down editorializing in news items) online and can eliminate the “tracks” that they’d ever said something different.
We know what we know because we can look back at the record. Liberals HATE being exposed for what they’ve said publicly in the past.
I like browsing in cool bookstores. I would patronize an independent bookstore if it was nearby and tried to earn my business.
The children’s bookstore near me went out of business because the owner cared more about dog agility competitions than making sales. The more pictures of her dog went up, the more the store went down. I bought the books I liked, told her I wanted more of the same type, and they never appeared.
The Catholic bookstore near me went out of business, too. It was merchandised like a boring, cold, gray 1970’s store. Not fun. They should have had readings, talks, book signings and musical events. I wanted to like it, but it was just hopelessly dorky.
I like the idea of independent bookstores, but success isn’t just going to fall into their laps.
It may also require "taking the store to the public" whether that is setting up a booth at a gun show, a tattoo show, a car show, an arts show, a book show...
And I say don't ignore out of print books. Can't go to the brick and mortars for what they can't order.
The retailers of new books around here have been stocking used titles for some years already — a practice that B&N brought to town when it discontinued its section for software.
The locally-owned big bookstore was hideously leftist, with the reprehensible demagogue Noam Chomsky’s titles displayed here and there in different sections of the store. Now that the jackoff who was responsible for that travesty has kicked off, I shop there more regularly, but AFAIC that damaged the store’s reputation. But they’d had remainder titles for as long as they’d been in business, and had to respond to B&N’s move by putting in a section of used.
Luckily we’ve never lacked for independent used booksellers in this town and area.
The one thing I cannot do is read a full book on a screen. I need to be able to physically touch the pages and smell the printed scent. Nothing is more wonderful to me than to be able to go through the pages of a book. The local used bookstore looks like it does quite well as far as customer base.
Until e-book prices drop, I think there’ll still be a place for bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Maybe the big box discounters for the most popular stuff, big box bookstores and indies for the rest.
You can "index" search to find certain topics but then you have to "slide, slide, slide" a page to actually read the text. My eyes can scan a paper page much quicker than an e-page and when artwork or photography is involved, forget it. It isn't the same experience.
I bought my CD-ROM set of Nat’Lampoon for $3 (used). Whole decades of Nat’Geographic for $2 each (sealed). Wonder when I will be able to find a full (ancient) run of Nat’Enquirer to complete the library...
Rolling Stone was maybe $5 for the full run (used, with rebate).
All bought at a used book store (with some “new” deadstock). Thanks to Half Price Books.
Half-Price Books rocks!
It is a different experience to hold an issue of Life Magazine in your hands (or in my case a bound volume of issues, bought at a library book sale). The printing techniques never duplicate the effect on screen and the sheer size of the page is something else to take in.
Schulers opened a location in the mall a few months before I quit. The opening of a competitor didn't have a big impact on our sales. What had a huge--and disasterous--effect on our sales was the company's decision to "rework" the frequent shopper program, changing it from a user-friendly program which strongly encouraged repeat sales to a pricey mess with almost no benefit to the consumer.
I was at the mall for the first time in years just recently. The store is gone. So there's that. I'm not trying to draw any parallels; I left Waldenbooks in 1997, so I'm in no position to try to reason why that one particular (once successful) store failed. For all I know, the chain no longer exists.
I'll say this, though: I am a voracious reader, as are all five members of my family, and we frequently shop at the B&N near our house. Good prices, good selection, excellent customer service. Several times a year I will special order movies and cds from the store. I've never made use of their little cafe because, as a former waitress, I don't do frou frou java. But I have noticed that all the tables in the cafe are generally full, so a need appears to be filled.
Once every couple of years (say five or six) I will stop in at the used bookstores on the MSU campus, just to remind myself why I don't offer them my patronage on a regular basis. Prices as high as B&N, hit or miss selection, and some of the snottiest sales staff I have ever encountered...what's not to love? No, thanks.
I don't think these particular shops are true "mom and pops"--they are more along the lines of campus fixtures, surviving because each fall a new crop of blossoming scholastic intelligentsia arrive on campus, armed with Mommy's plastic, itching to prove how deep they are by spending a stupid amount of money on a tattered copy of The Naked and the Dead. I mean, really. They'll never open the book (one hopes). It'll look ubercool on their bookshelf, though. In secret they'll continue to reread the Harry Potter series and those vampire books that are so popular now.
Books they probably got at B&N!
I would like for them to survive. I have another 18 years until retirement.
On an individual level, businesses do come and go. It’s hard to believe that indie bookstores will completely vanish.
A bookseller at our local B&N (about to close because the landlord tripled the rent on them--a CVS pharmacy is going to take over the space) told us that they had to get rid of the cushy chairs because homeless people would take them all day and piss their pants while sitting there.
The Waldens around here vanished a while ago. Around ten years ago, the North Kent Mall was torn down (replaced by a Lowes), which took care of the Bargain Books and Walden inside; the indie bookstore that had been out by Plainfield disappeared a few years earlier.
The Walden in Woodland Mall had survived for decades, moving once within the mall, that was about 20 years ago. At one point there were three bookstores in Woodland, I’m drawing a blank as to their names; Walden was in the middle for size, and on the SW wing; the Doubleday (aha) was smaller, and on the NE wing; the, hmm, can’t recall the name of it, bigger than Walden, was on the NW wing. Those others weren’t around for very many years.
The Woodland Walden made its move sometime during or shortly after the first Bush administration, so, circa 1990. The space it moved to was much larger and right on the corner by one of the entrances. I generally went there around Christmas (historically the only time I actually go to malls anymore) and occasionally during the year when I had points to spend (must have been that program you mentioned).
I have a warm spot for Walden because it was literally the first bookstore I ever visited, and I started spending my small amount of hard-earned childhood cash there when I was able to even go there.
I could see that being a problem in an urban core. The first B&Ns I visited were in the late 1970s, in Boston (there were two or three of them I think, I visited a couple if memory serves), and they were more like the old B&N remainder / new catalog, not fancy, just tables (some were crappy ones) piled with books and standup pricetags. No chairs that I remember.
My favorite brick and mortar bookstore.
I also shop Amazon and occasionally go in Barnes and Noble at the mall usually when my husband is in Joseph A. Bank.
This was in Encino, a residential Los Angeles neighborhood far from the urban core where it’s a rare house that sells for under a million dollars. But there’s a large park not too far away where there’s enough places hidden away where they can camp.
Nice website. I first learned of the online used book search engines from a bookstore proprietor in upstate NY (this was in the 1990s sometime; when I’m out of state, I nearly always wind up finding and visiting at least one bookstore; that trip it was like five ;’) and that kicks the hell out of the big new-title retailer websites. Amazon figured that out early on, and affiliated (at first) with one of the big three used book search engines. But I used one search engine to locate a kinda weird book for a friend (he’d given me a list of a half dozen to look for while on the trip, and I *am* a great friend, so...) in a local, or rather nearby bookstore. I’d never used the searches before, obviously. I walked into the place, no one around but a couple of other customers. The proprietor came in from outdoors (he stored much of his inventory in another part of the same old building), saw my printout, and said, “wow, two in a row”. The women waiting ahead of me had come in for another searched title.
Nobody mentioned ABE yet? It’s great! And Books for Less over by the Mall of Ga, love that place.
I received an original on the Lost Dutchman Mine from Abe Books. A treasure in itself. I believe the author was Sims.
Some of the search engines have come and gone. There used to be a Dogpile-like multi-engine (one search box, many searches made) called, hmm, something obvious like www.everybookstore.com and I used that to track down a couple of really hard to find ones.
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