Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are Independent Bookstores Dead--Not Yet!

An interesting article appeared in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal, explaining how a few independent bookstores are surviving in today's digital age. The local stores profiled say their principal concern is no longer the huge brick and mortar stores--of which Barnes and Noble is the only one left standing--but the Internet. It's so much easier to go online to buy something and have it instantly downloaded. Case in point, yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble to check out the new releases and the bargain books. I always enjoy Holocaust literature and found a new hardcover called "The Warsaw Anagrams." It was priced at $25.95. I made a note to check out the e-book price when I got home. I went on www.kobobooks.com (I have a Libre e-reader, which is compatible with Kobo rather than Kindle) and found the e-book priced at only $2.79. I bought it and downloaded it in a few seconds. Amazing savings!

Independent booksellers in the Milwaukee and surrounding area (most are in the suburbs) say they survive by holding book club meetings, having book signings with best selling authors and offering discounted books to students. They depend on local community support and loyalty. They have also added cards and other non-book items to their inventory. Stuffed animals sit next to the children's books. Some even sell e-books on their websites.

Another interesting note. The only brick and mortar store that has expanded in recent years is Half Price Books, one of my favorites, since you can also find so many out of print books there as well as on Amazon. My problem with Barnes and Noble (besides the high prices) is the fact that they only stock current stuff and few items from indie publishers.

Even those bookstores that are thriving say they could make more money doing something else and cite concerns about the future.

For the complete article visit:

Next Week: Amie Louellen


Lynne Marshall said...

I pine for the small book store days. I have so many fond memories of spending hours in them. There isn't one anywhere near me. Would have to travel to another town and then only find a mystery specific indie. The Borders in our town just closed down, and I'm so bummed. How can a community exist without a book store?
When I was in Halifax last year I found a place that was one-half book store (though used) and one-half traditional coffee house. Very neat place.
thanks for your encouraging blog, thuogh I do feel the ticking clock.

Sandra Koehler said...

It is sad, isn't it, Lynne. Just like so many other small businesses that have trouble making it these days. Sandy/Alison

Sandra Koehler said...

It's good to see they're receptive to book signings, though only from best-selling authors, however.

joydeb said...

I think if indie bookstores are having trouble, some of that stems from their reluctance to stock indie books. I know my local store here didn't want to stock my book. And mine wasn't self-published but put out by a small publisher.

Sandra Koehler said...

I'm in the same boat. I contacted all of the bookstores named in this article and they refused to either respond or if they did respond, it was in the negative and I was published by The Wild Rose Press. Other authors in the area have had similar experiences when we tried to arrange a joint booksigning. Sandy/Alison

Jennifer Ann Coffeen said...

Don't lose hope! There are still some local bookstores that are willing to stock small press books. The Book Cellar in Chicago has been amazing. they are hosting my launch party this Sept. Here's the link if anyone's interested.


Sandra Koehler said...

Thanks, Jennifer...that's great info! And good luck with your signing! Sandy/Alison

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Allison,
Intresting article, here in Australia the situation is very similar to what you have written, except that we pay even more for our print books than you do in the US. The postage costs are dreadful, so e-books are becoming a very cheap option.
And I have to say, that the large bookstore chains have never bothered with the small indie publishers and their authors, then they have the gall to complain that we don't support them.
I feel sorry for the small book shops who are suffering because of the greed, incompetence and indifference of the large book store chains.


Sandra Koehler said...

Great comment Margaret. Interestng to hear Australia has the same kind of situation. Sandy/Alison