More on Indie Bookstore Struggles

The subject of indie bookstores has been rather the lead topic around the studio the past few weeks, and this past week saw some more harsh news come along:

Competition is killing independent U.S. bookstores
Murder Ink Closes

I like the indie stores I shop at... Changing Hands in Tempe, and The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. I don't have many ideas for the indies or for the midlist authors, but it sure seems like we're more than overdue to find a few new ones to make a lot more people on all sides happy.


  1. Brian Brown says

    We've been commenting back and forth on this in email so I will bring this out for everyone to put in their comments and ideas.

    My biggest question is: How is it possible for an independent bookstore to survive in today's market?

    I don't see a way for an indie store to be able to make money on a long term basis. The higher price of rent, employee's salaries and benefits, utlities, etc all play into draining resources and making a store non profitable.

    The only thing I can see is to cater to a niche market such as rare books, first editions, specific genre, or some sort of angle which is not covered by a HUGE superstore.

    I know, locally, Changing Hands and The Poison Pen have done well for themselves over the years, well enough to still be open. How long can it last and what is the secret to their successes?

  2. The examples of both the Poison Pen and Changing Hands are good examples of how independents can survive: niche markets, which you alluded to.

    At a certain point, a niche market will reach an economic critical mass point that makes a physical location profitable. The Poison Pen has mysteries augmented by first editions and collector books, while Changing Hands seems to cater to more of the self help and new age crowds.

    As the Internet grows, I think some of the smaller niche markets will move almost exclusively on-line. Once the luddite members of the Boomer generation are out of the equation, I see large retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wal Mart and others modifying their sales techniques to capture more of the "always on" generations. Amazon makes it very easy to sell books as an independent, and I'd be willing to bet that self publishing will be the killer application for online bookstores. We're starting to see this action slowly happening with Apple and iTunes.

    As Google and next-generation search engines come up with novel ways to search weblogs and even audio (think Podcast searching), I think programs like Cover to Cover and sites like The Dragon Page will help to fill in the marketing aspect by providing a highly focused marketplace for authors to sell their books.

  3. Brian Brown says

    I agree that more and more of the market will move to an "online" model rather then a traditional brick and mortar freestanding model. It's going to be a fundamental switch in how things are done, in regards to books and publication.

    I'm a luddite when it comes to books. I enjoy the feel, the smell and having it IN my hands. I've never been taken by reading my books online. I already spend WAY WAY too much time in front of my monitor that it's nice to put that away and pick up a book.

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