2019-03-22 18:13:21
The fate of all bookstores? books/market data

Wired News: Indie Bookstores Tackle Internet:

Adam Brent knew his 11-year-run selling bestsellers and new releases was over when mail carriers started walking into his building to deliver books from Amazon to the tenants upstairs.

Gary Kleiman, who owns BookBeat in the northern California community of Fairfax, decided the way to do it was to get rid of the clutter and make his store a gathering place.

“We had 10,000 or 13,000 books in the store,” said Kleiman. “Now we have maybe 1,500.” Last fall, Kleiman gave all but a handful of his used books to charity. Then he tore down shelves and in their place put tables and chairs and a small stage for live performances. He started offering free wireless internet access. And to help convince people to take advantage of it all he got a beer and wine license.

As for the books, most of the ones left are new and they’re confined to the perimeter walls. While he’s selling about the same number of books as he used to, new books are selling better. And his store has a lot more customers — eating, drinking and listening to music — than he did before. About 60 percent of the store’s profits come from the cafe.

Jim Huang, who opened The Mystery Company in Carmel, Indiana, said a key to the store’s success since it opened about 3 1/2 years ago was recognizing that when it comes to mystery books, customers don’t just want a place to buy them, they want a place to talk about them.

“We do everything we can think of to get readers to talk,” said Huang, whose store has discussion groups, readings by authors and other events.

In Menlo Park, California, community members also came forward with funding when Kepler’s Books closed in August of 2005. Kepler’s reopened that October, thanks to more than $500,000 from 24 investors, and soon created a membership program.

About 2,000 people joined, pumping another $196,000 into the business, said Clark Kepler, whose father founded the store in 1955.

Encouraged as they are by some success stories around the country, bookstore owners note that the brutal business has claimed some of the nation’s most famous independent book stores, including Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, and WordsWorth Books on Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most recently, Coliseum Books, a famed New York bookstore, announced it was closing for the second time in its 30-year history — this time for good.

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