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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  517 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Barnes & Noble confirms job cuts, expects $40 million in annual cost savings

In one of the previous threads talking about bookstores, I linked to an article or something saying that independent bookstores are on the rise. That was like a year or so ago and I've had a long day at work and my Google-Fu is weak but what I'm about to say runs off the assumption that that statistic is still true and some of what francopoli says in his bit up there.

Barnes and Noble dropped the ball in a lot of hindsight is 50/50 ways. Online presence, Nooks, what ever. You've brought up before that one of the big things killing retail stores is rent and ever since you made that comment I've come across articles agreeing with that premise.

I frequent four different independence bookstores and they all have a few things going for them that give them some edge. Here's my breakdown of each cause brain no worky so eloquence is not an option tonight.

Bookstore A is a comic shop in a run down part of town where rent is cheap. Two thirds of the floor space is dedicated to tables for Magic The Gathering Tournaments and other types of gaming. They buy up and resell Magic Cards, Hero Clicks, and of course comics and probably make a mean ass profit at it. Their graphic novel section isn't really carefully currated, they take a shotgun approach and have about 10 bookcases dedicated to them (that's about 2-3,000 books at any given time). Chances are you won't be wowed by their selection, but you'll be guaranteed to find something that you'll like. Their rewards based program is laid out in such a way to incentivize customers to spend at least $1,000 a year there to take full advantage of it. Everybody there knows my name.

Bookstore B is a comic shop in another run down part of town where rent is cheap. Their focus is mainly comics, comics, comics. They have about the same selection as Bookstore A, but it's curated and they have quality titles for everything from cape comics to indies to indies. Every time you're there, they ask what you're reading, what you're interested in reading, suggest things to you, and kindly let you know that if you don't see something you want, they'll be more than happy to order it for you. One time I bought about twenty graphic novels all at once, mentioned that Dala would kill me if she knew how much I was spending (I was gift shopping, so it wasn't all for me) and the owner slapped on a bunch of half off stickers on them for me so I could tell her I got them for a deal. That's just how they roll. Everybody there knows my name.

Bookstore C is a regular bookstore in a fancy ass part of town, but in a small little hole in the wall that is A) still pleasant and B) while more expensive per square foot, still affordable. Their selection is curated and they know that they have limited space and therefore might not have much to interest you so they always ask what you're interested in, offer suggestions, and most importantly, let you know they can order anything you ask for. Nothing they have there interests me, but I like supporting small businesses, so that's my go to place to order books. Everybody there knows my name.

Bookstore D is a two hour drive from where I currently live. It's a pleasant country drive though, so I don't mind in the slightest. They're in a little town, far away from any interstate, so big box presence isn't really a thing there. As a result, chances are, there rent is cheap. There shit is curated, classy, and fancy (this place is like PBS while other bookstores might be more like Fox or ABC). They also play the small business end to their advantage and really market themselves that way. They have a section devoted to regional authors, regional publishers, and regional printers. Your dog is allowed in the store. They have two cats in the store. You could literally take a book, sit down in some random corner, and read it from cover to cover and they'd be totally chill with that. Everybody there knows my name.

Barnes and Noble? They do some things right. They have buy one get one deals and they're willing to take a shotgun approach to their merchandise so you'll find something if you're willing to look. They'll have author signings and every now and again they'll play acoustic blues music on the PA that I like. But their Blu-Rays are overpriced, they do seem to be schizophrenic in merchandising, and rent rates are probably kicking there butts. But most of all? Most of all? Nobody there knows my name. If I wanted books without the human interaction, I'd use the internet.

francopoli  ·  517 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Louisville has a kick-ass bookstore. I like visiting the place once a month or so They run local author forums. The staff READS in a way that makes me and my goal of a book a week or 20K pages a quarter look like a lightweight. I went in a month ago and said I was reading Alone Together and had a 10 minute conversation on how the internet is creating a bigger demand for long form readers and people are joining the in-person book club because people are starting to get burnt out on social media. Good luck having that sort of interaction in anything other than an independent establishment that invests in its employees.

They also carry magazines, foreign newspapers, local schlock, NYT highbrow and will order just about everything and anything that they can get an ISBN number from. I've intentionally bought from them rather than Amazon because they earned my patronage. The one drawback is that I have to go there on the way home from work and getting in and out during those times is a bit rough.

They also do partner projects with the Library. They used to run a writer's forum to help kids write better school papers but I an not sure they do that any more. After all if they are in the library they might end up buying books as well as borrowing.

Bookstores can and do compete. They have to offer something that a website can't: people. That requires investment in your staff, the community and building more people reading books.

keifermiller  ·  516 days ago  ·  link  ·  

For new books,

My local bookstore of choice sounds similar. Lots of author events, patrons can place review slips on the shelf under their favorite book, two cats, specializes in mystery and politics but will buy whatever.

My second favorite bookstore is mainly a leftist-activist art gallery / stationary store that stocks verso books and publishes local pamphlets and stuff.

In the past 10 years, I've bought maaaaaybe $12 worth of stuff from BN that wasn't last minute gift shopping. Usually I wandered around and then left empty handed. I spent probably $250 between the two local shops last year.

    They have to offer something that a website can't: people. That requires investment in your staff, the community and building more people reading books.

The community part of this is key for any sort of small, independent business anymore. You can't get away with simply being the only place in town that has $ITEM, because amazon definitely has $ITEM for cheaper.

The owner of our independent hardware store passed away recently. I've heard a fair amount of talk about how one of the various local non-profits should step in and buy the place if his family decides to close shop.

I'd absolutely throw them some money to do that. It is a community space just as much as it was a business. Probably more the former than the latter, as Rod would regularly knock down prices when writing out the receipt just because he felt like it. And then you could mill about talking politics/sports/homebrew for however long you liked.

    Whoever decided these were the golden years should be strung up by the ears.

    -- Rod Ernst

Get the community part right, and I'll pay you a good deal more than I'd be willing to pay elsewhere.

kleinbl00  ·  516 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Your basic point is pretty clear: personal vs. impersonal. I've never given any money to any streaming service; I poured $15 a month into for three or four years.

The local behemoth out where I'm at is called Third Place Books. Backintheday I thought it was because they were happy to be behind Barnes & Noble and Amazon and before that, behind B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble. Nope. They've got a stage, a food court and a play area.

Barnes & Noble wanted to go this way. Most of them have cafes. Most of them have comfy furniture. We used to study at B&N all the time but that's back when I was in college so obviously we did it by lamplight. Nonetheless B&N got trapped in that nasty space between "personal" and "warehouse" and it's hard to be personal when all your advertising material and direction comes from a corporate board.

I was in the room once when the chief of Marvel Comics said they estimated the comic-buying public at under 2 million people. That means at any given Applebee's happy hour there's one person in that room who has bought a comic in the past few months. Of course, at this point there probably aren't that many more who have bought a book.

johnnyFive  ·  517 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think you're spot on. I wish I had places like that near me, at least for books (I imagine the comic shops would if I ever went). Comics too must be hurting from online; now that I've started getting into comics, the price disparity between digital and print is much higher than it is for books. At least with the screen on my iPad, quality doesn't suffer, either.

I mean, how can a local shop compete with this?