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Battle Between Chain and Indies

Now, the tables have turned. In the era of online buying and the e-book, both currently dominated by Amazon, the big chains are in trouble—and new technologies may provide independent bookstores with a lifeline.

According to the NPR article, the tide is changing. The indies are not the ones struggling to make ends meet. The tables have turned and the big chains are in trouble. In my recent post, the neighborhood-relevant indies are thriving in San Francisco, with selections that reflect individual character of the ‘hoods. The chain stores unfortunately don’t have the same advantage this area. With the future of digital book being now, these chains can’t carry every book in the world in their stores, and they don’t have the same emotional connection to their neighborhood that a local store does. Recently I notice that Borders has added toys and a ton of book accessory to their stores in order to boost sales. I’ve also noted that patrons (at least in the Union Square store) are transients who happen to be in the city: tourists and people who shop in the proximity. A good proportion of them are just browsing for calendars, not books. With a recorded loss of 74 million, it seems to me that (Borders) chain’s only hope is the sales of digital content, whereas the local bookstores tend to thrive in sales of hard prints. I don’t hate the chain, which in fact might well be the only source of books in remote country, but I cannot come to feel sympathetic for the chain. I am heartened by the news that Google will make it possible for independent bookstores to sell e-books from their websites. In the long run, I see a bright future for our local bookstores.

12 Responses

  1. Amen. It’s nice to see the pendulum finally swinging back toward the good guys. Reminds me of “You’ve Got Mail”. It killed me when Meg Ryan’s little book store got plowed under by Tom Hanks’s soulless big box. I always hoped the era of the chain would someday come to an end.

    Maybe it’s beginning. And how appropriate that it’s happening in the literary space. I’m so glad you shared this!

    • I was also thinking about Meg Ryan and her bookstore when I read this article! For many people who live far away from urban area chain is their only option when it comes to shopping for books. But I hope the digital books age will shift that tide back to the indies.

  2. Gosh, I think you may have a point. I don’t want to see either one fail, but yes, the loyalty and connection to a neighborhood store is the only think that might stop me from shopping online.

    And Google’s entry into the e-book business may be a deal changer in many ways.

    • Either way people are buying books to read, whether they buy them from Borders or indies. But our indies represent local authors and independent presses that distributors for mega boxes don’t even bother. Although I’m skeptical about Google’s insidious take-over if not the world but our lives, it’s a welcoming gesture for them to make ebooks available through indies.

  3. Wow, this is really inspiring. I’ve been getting slammed (blessed) with B&N and Borders discount coupons and I guess that’s their effort to pull people in, still. Glad to see indies still alive and thriving. Several of the indies in the Atlanta area have recently moved into bigger locations so I’m proud of that, too. Go, little indies, go!

    • Indies don’t always have coupons but they have frequent reader program. My indie has a punch card. I earn a free book after 10 purchases. When I break it all down, I save just about the same as using coupons from the chains.

  4. Go indies! I love small independt bookstores, can use hours in those places.

  5. I hope this battle doesn’t deprive those of us to whom books are not easily accessible most especially when everything is being digitalized.

  6. I’ve always wanted to own a little bookstore so I was very heartened by that story when I read it too! I don’t hate the chains because they do serve a purpose in communities that don’t have an indie store to go to but I’ve always preferred to shop at an indie store when I can.

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