Monday, January 11, 2010

Independents are Hanging In

Not talking politics here. We’re talking bookstores, of course. KARE11, the local CBS channel in Minneapolis - St. Paul ran a story about 3 independent bookstores struggling to stay afloat.

As Kyle Porter, author of the online story, said:
Independent bookstores are closing all over the country.
The good news is that two in this Minnesota area are still alive. The Bookcase is the oldest independent bookstore in the Twin Cities. One reason it survives is because it’s next to one of the first original Caribou Coffee shops. They also offer a wider selection than most other stores. (On a side note, I thought it funny that earlier this month The Bookcase hosted the author of “How Starbucks Saved My Life.”)

Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s in Minneapolis specializes in Mystery and Science Fiction novels. The owner admits it’s tough, but they, too, hang in by having a huge selection: around 10,000 volumes.

Besides having a large selection, both stores give a lot of personal service to their clients.

I, personally, like independents. They tend to know their books. It’s been my experience that if I go into an independent and ask for an author or a protagonist or a book similar to some other series they take me to the bookshelves and offer suggestions - rather than boot up the store computer.
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28 comments:

  1. I like independents too, especially those that specialize. There are a couple in my area that I go to when I can't find obscure stuff the Bigs don't carry. They seem to still be doing fine with devoted patrons. Glad to hear there's still hope for that market segment overall.

    Marvin D Wilson

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  2. I like independent bookstores, too – they always have so much more ambience. Unfortunately, there aren’t any close to where I live. I'm hoping their popularity rebounds.

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  3. I like indies, too, but the one in our area is not very good. I still try to support it.

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  4. Got to support the indies but they do seem to be dropping like flies.

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  5. I love the comfort of independent stores. They know there stock and have a passion for the reading experience.

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  6. The indies around us have disappeared one by one until none are left close by. I know of one or two in neighboring cities. Author Jan Grape and her husband, years ago, had one that specialized in mysteries and was wonderful to go in. Tons of books and they knew every book.

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  7. I can't even imagine how tough it must be to stay financially viable running against the chains, ebooks, and just the immense cost of doing business! Kudos to those that find a way to stick with it, true treasures to the reading public.

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  8. Most readers like independents, I think. Most occasional readers have probably never been in one. I'd like to see them return to prosperity, but don't know if it will ever happen.

    BTW, I just read yesterday's story. Great job!

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  9. I love Indies. There are two great ones in Albuquerque and both are doing okay, as far as I know. It's so sad that we are losing so many across the country. Liked your Flash Ficion piece, Helen.
    Karen

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  10. I think it's a labor of love for those indies. Can't imagine they're pulling in much money...but I love their stores.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

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  11. It is a different experience walking into a independent, as opposed to going to a chain.

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  12. We don't have an independent book store in our town, just a B & N now that Borders and gone too. We do have a couple of used book stores that I love to visit. Great place to stock up on books.

    I watched "You've Got Mail" again yesterday and thought how rough it must be for independent bookstores today. Sad.

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  13. I too like independent stores - we are really suffering here in small provincial Nova Scotia. Halifax is down to two independent stores - a favourite went down the tubes late last year - what a tragedy. Yet, I must say that a small book store must understand why people choose to shop there and buy accordingly. When the chains like Chapters and Borders are pumping out the same old same old - and stores like Walmart and the Super Store carry popular fiction - you know your butt is in a sling if you don't go that extra mile. I remember back in the early 70's going to an independent book store (they all were then) and the owner would give me the best book to start an author with - Tess of the D'Ubervilles for Hardy, etc... Now that was special.

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  14. Good for them! The independents in NC are surviving because many have diversified - they sell coffee and gifts as well as books.
    They all need to hang on. The chains are closing at an even faster rate. Independents may well be the last stores standing.

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  15. You do seem to have to diversify, Diane, I agree. The last close independent for me had a small wine tasting bar. It still closed, but was something different.

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  16. There's an independent book store within walking distance from my home...it's such a luxury, when I feel like it I simply walk there. It's not quite as awesome as when I was young and could walk to the library...but I'll take it. It would be heartbreaking if it ever had to go.

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  17. I try to support the independents around me. One is doing okay because of its great location in downtown Harrisburg where lots of people can walk. They also have a very good cafe to help pay the bills.

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  18. I love Indies! The last one in our area closed about 10 years ago and I really miss it!

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  19. Liza, having a great bookstore within walking distance sounds heavenly. And, Susan, a cafe connected is great. I've not seen a cafe and a bookstore together.

    Jemi, I'm with you. I miss the indie that was closest to me.

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  20. We've lost a couple of great independent bookstores here in Boise and gained a new one Rediscovered Books.
    The owners and their staff cater to local authors and provide space for our readers/writers group.
    It's great to walk in and ask about a book and find someone who's read it and wants to share an opinion!

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  21. Kathy, it sound like a great place, especially since they cater to local authors!

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  22. I love independent book stores! We have one that has been in my small town for as long as I can remember...unfortunately for me she caters to childrens books, educational and other such books. But the atmisphere of the store is so homie, even from the outside. I have been thinking lately that after I graduate high school I start my own independent store and specialize in fantasy, si fi, and other areas of fiction...but it's looking harder and harder for small business' so I'm not sure if I should attempt it. So for now it's just me and my novels, lol. And by the way Helen, your posts are great! :-D

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  23. Thank you, Shawn.

    It's hard to tell how the indies will fair over the long run, especially with e-books gaining sales.

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  24. Shawn, I tried to leave a comment on all three of your blogs. None of them would let me.

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  25. Glad to see that some independents are still hanging in there. It is getting harder and harder to survive in this arena that is changing so.

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  26. I need to visit more bookstores. Thanks for the reminder. We have quite a few independents in Portland.

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  27. I don't think there are many independent bookshops in Sydney, especially in the suburbs. That's sad.

    Really Angelic

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  28. Honestly, as a Twin Cities resident and book illustrator, I would've appreciated a different approach to the independent bookstores from my local media. They're punctuating the struggle rather than all the great books, events, and author visits these indie bookstores have to offer ALL THE TIME.

    I'm not saying they should act like all is well in this economy, but a little kudos for hard work would've been nice.

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