Independent bookstores have become a hotbed of community activity at the very same time that they find themselves most under siege. They are valued by their patrons because they can provide the personalized service that their chain store competitors cannot. Moreover, independent bookstores offer a local flavor, grounded in their town or region that national chains struggle with. The ability to sell books from local self-published authors, and promote locally is a unique community-building trait of the independent bookstore. Nonetheless these venues are struggling, and often disappearing from the landscape.
William Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage (an indie book store in California), has said independent book stores are “[a] unique and almost indispensable community resource”. Petrocelli also has noted that “The important impact of independent book selling can be seen in three categories:”
1) As an engine for local economic growth;2) As a catalyst for new writers and readers;3) As a focal point for community life;
As Indie bookstores are adapting to the changing landscape of the publishing world some have taken drastic measures to survive. For example, in-store author events have been traditional in indie bookstores for a long time. In the past, these events were open to the public, at no cost. Now, however, many shops have initiated a policy of charging admission for these events. Others require that customers purchase at least one book when attending these events. These charges resemble a drink minimum at the corner saloon.
The main issue facing the independent bookstores, is that with free events such as readings, many customers were attending with previously purchased copies of the book at hand, and making no in store purchases. At the end of such an event, which often includes higher expenses on the part of the bookstore, no higher revenue was achieved for the bookstore. With the current models coming out, bookstores are assuring themselves at least the cover price, or a single purchase out of each customer interested in enjoying the cultural benefits of the events it hosts.
In the current climate, it seems possible that if book buyers don’t go back to patronizing the local bookstore to make their purchases, the indie bookstore may become extinct.
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