Small Bookshops Are Back!

Small Bookshops Are Back! November 28, 2018

Jill Schlesinger:

NEW YORK — A growing number of shoppers will be supporting their independent neighborhood bookstores on Small Business Saturday. After nearly being wiped out a decade ago, small bookstores are booming.

Dane Neller, the owner of Shakespeare & Co. in New York City, just opened his third indie bookstore, and he’s proving the naysayers wrong.

“Bookstores are back and they’re back in a big way,” he said. “I’m not given to to hyperbole — it was record-breaking for us.”

The Manhattan sanctuary is part of a resurgence of independent bookstores nationwide. Customers who visit the store can stumble upon a new author or linger over a latte while a special machine can print a book in three minutes if it’s not in stock.

The rebound comes after years of competition from deep discount superstores and online behemoth Amazon, which together turned small shops into an endangered species.

According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent bookstores fell by approximately 40 percent between the mid-90s and 2009. They have recovered some of those closures, and this year, sales are up more than five percent over a year ago.

The localism movement has been a driving force. Customers are increasingly spending in their neighborhood stores.


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  • David Moore

    The story of how used bookstores, LP records, old cameras, and many more physical objects are making a comeback is wonderfully told in The Revenge of Analog by David Sax.

  • Tucker

    I love this story. My favorite little bookstore is in my hometown, Spooner, WI—way up north of Eau Claire, south of Superior. Don’t much care for the yarn, but in a small town that’s the only way to make it. And I always fear that even with this combination, the store might go under. I buy a book every year when we make our autumn visit to the home place. Google Northwind Book & Fiber: https://www.northwindbook.com/ And be sure and stop by next time you’re nearby Spooner.

  • The big chains socked it to a lot of small bookstores with a combination of high volume and inventory allowing deep discounts and having the item in ready stock plus amenities plus still having good customer service. Then Amazon stuck it to the big chains by having even higher volume and larger inventory. As sales dropped the chains cut customer service and amenities, the advantages they had over Amazon, to their cost. Meanwhile, the surviving small stores have been able to leverage personal customer experience and deep knowledge to thrive.

    One piece of the book market that may not be able to come back though is the small independent book distributor–I heard about that from a speech by the guy who runs Tor Books.

  • Wayfaring Michael

    Stevens Point, not so far from Spooner, being a college town, has four independent bookstores, each very different from the other. Book Isle, my favorite, has a resident cat, and its windows sport both the TARDIS and Horton, so what’s not to love?. The also have a sideline, which is locally-produced pottery. In addition to ordering books from them instead of Amazon, I have donated used books.

    I agree with Tucker: support your independent bookstore!