Book lovers will remember a time where the advent of e-books and Amazon delivery threatened to close down their local, independent bookstore. While bookstores many did close down, those that managed to survive the decade-long lows have begun to experience a comeback.
While the number of independent bookstores fell by 40 percent from the mid-nineties to 2009, they rebounded over the next few years. From 2009 to 2015 the number of indie bookshops grew by almost 35 percent. Part of their growth can be explained by the decline of e-book sales, which were down by 3.8 percent in 2017, according to Forbes. What’s driving the independent bookstore revival?
1. Great Staff & Recommendations
Independent bookstores focus on having passionate, knowledgeable staff that Amazon’s recommendation algorithm just can’t compete with. While Amazon will show you books that are similar to what you’ve already bought, a bookstore employee can make recommendations based on what you’re in the mood for.
Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, agrees.“The way indie bookstores are not just surviving but thriving in this current business environment is that they are innovative and creative and create an experience you can’t replicate online… and the extraordinary knowledge and passion that indie booksellers have about books.”
A few book lovers have been using bookstore staff’s knowledge in unique ways. Harbor Books in New York has offered dinner party hosts book recommendations for each guest. The gift is more personal than most and can start great conversations at the dinner table. Try getting book recommendations for your next gift.
2. A Passion for Local Shopping
Consumers who want to shop in bookstores have chosen their local, independent store over the big book chains. In 2011, the major American bookstore Borders, and its subsidiary Waldenbooks, shut down. Barnes & Noble is surviving but has been struggling for years as its consolidated sales drop.
Instead of giving Borders’ market share to Barnes & Noble, consumers chose to resume shopping at nearby independent bookstores. Although, the outlook is less positive in Canada, where major retailer Indigo is doing so well that it is planning to open five stores in the United States.
No matter which big retailer is popular in your area, you can simply shop at a local independent bookstore if you’d like to support them instead. If you no longer have one in your area, consider taking a little drive to the closest one. This can signal to investors and would-be bookstore owners that your hometown is ready for an independent store of its own.
3. The Love of Physical Books
When e-books first came out they were exciting and offered new possibilities for book-lovers. Now, the honeymoon period has worn off, and consumers are realizing that e-books aren’t great for every situation.
To explain the drop n e-book sales, a writer for the Observer explains that losing his e-book reader three times, forgetting to charge it, and breaking the screen has left him disillusioned with e-books in general. You can find the same stories across social media, where book enthusiasts remind us that physical books don’t run on batteries and can’t have software problems.
There will always be those who are passionate about owning e-books, but the physical book remains very close to many reader’s hearts. If you feel the same, and are dedicated to local shopping, or want a solid book recommendation, it may be time to visit your local independent bookstore.