Indie Bookselling: Post, Times Take Different Tacks
The Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post has a rousing story entitled "Independent Bookstores Turn a New Page on Brick-and-Mortar Retailing," which states that despite the common mainstream narrative of the past few years, "Independent bookstores are not dead. In fact, in some of the country's most urbane and educated communities, they are making a comeback.
"In an e-tailing world, their resurgence is driven by e-book growth that has leveled off, dyed-in-the-wool print lovers who won't (or can't) abandon page flipping, a new category of hybrid reader (the latest mystery, digital; the latest John Irving, print) and savvy retailers... positioning their stores squarely in the buy-local movement and as a respite from screens."
Laura J. Miller, a Brandeis sociology professor and author of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption, told the Post: "I think what we're seeing is that the inevitable death of any kind of physical retailing was a gross exaggeration. There are a lot of reasons people like going to bricks-and-mortar stores, especially to bookstores that are offering something more than just a convenient shopping experience."
The Post focuses on the Curious Iguana, which opened in September in Frederick, Md., as an example of resurgent indies. As co-owner Marlene England noted, "We just never bought into the sky-is-falling mentality. You see the headlines, but you have to dig deep to see what's really happening."
Speaking of headlines, in a survey of indie booksellers, the New York Times threw a negative one--"Booksellers Wary About Holiday Sales"--on a story that could just as well have had the headline "Booksellers Hopeful About Holiday Sales." The paper's take: on the one hand, e-book sales have flattened this year; on the other hand, the holiday season is short. On the one hand, there's no blockbuster like the Steve Jobs biography of two years ago; on the other hand, plenty of titles are selling well. On the one hand, Amazon is discounting deeply; on the other hand, sales are up at stores contacted by the Times.
The paper's conclusion about this holiday season and bookstores: "It is a grab bag of factors, any one of which could tilt the fortunes of retailers as the holiday book-buying season enters its final days."