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View Full Version : Can one make a full-time living with a bookshop?



Radhika
03-30-2011, 08:53 AM
With eReaders, web fiction, and libraries, what do you think about the future of independent bookshops? In some nice places, I see a bookshop out of nowhere, and it interests me that they're still alive.
Within the next ten years, will independent bookshops still be alive?
More importantly, will print still be alive?

alleycat
03-30-2011, 09:11 AM
I'm sure you'll get opinions all over the map on this one.

I think there will still be bookstores, but probably specialized or niche, and/or combined with some other compatible business (coffee shop and used bookstore, for example, or small physical bookstore that does more of its business online as an Amazon marketplace seller). I think the days of the chain bookstores, and the traditional small mom-and-pop bookstores are almost over.

I don't know, of course, but I'm betting printed books with still be around ten years from now. You could even argue for a sort of "chaos theory" when discussing the future--something might happen two years from now that will turn everything on its head. For example, maybe the federal government decides to impose a 10% national sales tax on online purchases.

Tracey Taylor
03-30-2011, 10:18 AM
I don't think much will change in ten years. Think back to 2000. Sure technology is a bit better now but not much has changed in the past ten years. I look around and see more houses and more brick and mortar stores but that's it. Everyone I know has the same shopping habits as they had ten years ago. They get what they can at the store and then they go online to order the things they can't get.

You have to remember, ten years goes by very quickly. It seems like yesterday everyone was panicking about the Y2K bug. I can't see print books and bookstores disappearing in ten years since that's simply not enough time for them to disappear. Newspapers were obsolete in late 1990s when the Internet got big but you still see plenty of newspapers around. If newspapers couldn't die in 10+ years, books certainly aren't going to die in another ten years.

Mark W.
03-30-2011, 12:07 PM
I think we will have mom/pop and big box bookstores for years to come. The eformat/POD/Self Pub will be bigger but the quality between those and traditional publishers will be what keeps hard copy books and stores in business.

Jettica
03-30-2011, 01:08 PM
I think independent bookstores can survive as long as they embrace technology and understand how the book market is changing and evolving.

I do think that quality is what keeps bookstores alive, as Mark said. I also think that there are still a lot of people out there who would rather read a print book. I find reading eBooks really difficult, there's less excitement in them. Although I am toying with the idea of a Kindle, there are some great eBooks out there that the author chose not to put into print.

gothicangel
03-30-2011, 01:16 PM
There is a fantastic second-hand book shop in Alnwick, Northumberland. Most of the time you can't get parked outside the place. Easy to get lost in that place for 2 hours. They have this fantastic fire place and they offer a cup or tea of coffee for about 30p - complete with 'honesty box.'

Amazon just can't compete on that level. Brick and mortar bookshops are going nowhere.

Priene
03-30-2011, 01:59 PM
Most small towns in Norfolk and Suffolk have at least one independent second-hand place. It's the chains that are dying.

Jettica
03-30-2011, 02:00 PM
Oh that sounds so wonderful!

There's an independent book shop that's just opened in Norwich (I believe it's the only one in the city) but I've yet to go into it. It's just down the road from the two large Waterstones but I'm inclined to shop there, supporting local business and all.

AVS
03-30-2011, 02:28 PM
There's a local bookshop (in a nearby small town), it's quaint. But it's overstocked and underorganised; they also seem to have a prejudice against stocking the top commercial fiction, and though I'm not a fan myself, celebrity books (bios, ghost written novels).

To an extent I laud their principles, but their business acumen is terrible. I fear they will not last, not because there is no market, but because their commercial skill is lacking.

Priene
03-30-2011, 02:41 PM
Oh that sounds so wonderful!

There's an independent book shop that's just opened in Norwich (I believe it's the only one in the city) but I've yet to go into it. It's just down the road from the two large Waterstones but I'm inclined to shop there, supporting local business and all.

It's nowhere near the only one in the city. There's the hooge place on St Giles, the one in a courtyard near Head in the Clouds, the antiquarian place at the end of St Benedicts, the musty one in Elm Hill, and one opposite the Cathedral on Tombland. There are probably a couple more I've forgotten.

gothicangel
03-30-2011, 02:50 PM
Stirling has one second-hand shop [non-charity], a university campus bookshop and Waterstone's.

It's talk like this that makes me want to open an indie. :badthoughts

AVS
03-30-2011, 02:57 PM
Norwich sounds fabulous.

I love old bookstores, I guess they're the equivalent of sweetie shops to me.

I do worry how many we will be left with to browse around given the threats of Amazon like businesses, e-books, the large number of charity shops carrying books and sadly very often their own lack of business knowledge.

Priene
03-30-2011, 03:06 PM
Norwich is ace. We're also England's tartiest city (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/03/28/cardiff-girls-are-britain-s-tartiest-dressers-115875-23020290/).

gothicangel
03-30-2011, 03:25 PM
Norwich is ace. We're also England's tartiest city (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/03/28/cardiff-girls-are-britain-s-tartiest-dressers-115875-23020290/).

I wouldn't know, Newcastle must have a shot at that title. :tongue

brainstorm77
03-30-2011, 04:10 PM
In the city where I lived. A chain shut down that sold new and used for years. The owner said that sales had dropped, and people were not buying the same anymore. I think that Chapter's also killed her business when they came to the city.

cbenoi1
03-30-2011, 04:19 PM
> With eReaders, web fiction, and libraries, what do you think about
> the future of independent bookshops?

They will sell what the main retailers don't sell easily: specialty books. Independent bookshops near schools and universities will continue to thrive for quite some time, for as long as the education system relies on a constant supply of up-to-date material. An erotic bookshop that doubles as a sex shop? Why not. Certainly not something Barnes & Noble will start anytime soon...

Just don't expect them to stock the latest James Patterson or even sell it at the same price point the main retailers do.

-cb

Grrarrgh
03-30-2011, 04:24 PM
Print's not going anywhere. I know that ebooks are a growing market, and I don't think that's going to stop, but print won't disappear. It'll all level out eventually.

I agree with alleycat - I think that the niche/specialty bookshop will have a much better shot at surviving than a large chain with nothing else going for it.

Torgo
03-30-2011, 04:44 PM
I don't think much will change in ten years. Think back to 2000. Sure technology is a bit better now but not much has changed in the past ten years. I look around and see more houses and more brick and mortar stores but that's it. Everyone I know has the same shopping habits as they had ten years ago. They get what they can at the store and then they go online to order the things they can't get.

You have to remember, ten years goes by very quickly. It seems like yesterday everyone was panicking about the Y2K bug. I can't see print books and bookstores disappearing in ten years since that's simply not enough time for them to disappear. Newspapers were obsolete in late 1990s when the Internet got big but you still see plenty of newspapers around. If newspapers couldn't die in 10+ years, books certainly aren't going to die in another ten years.

Hmm, in the UK record shops basically don't exist any more - in 10 years, the internet has killed Tower Records, Virgin, and now (just about) HMV. There are no big music / video retail chains left any more.

We only have one big book chain left - Waterstones - and not everything is rosy with them (not least because they are owned by the flailing HMV.)

Terie
03-30-2011, 04:56 PM
I love old bookstores, I guess they're the equivalent of sweetie shops to me.

Get thee off to Hay-on-Wye for a weekend, preferably not during the festival, unless thou likest crowds. :D

Susan Littlefield
03-30-2011, 06:30 PM
With eReaders, web fiction, and libraries, what do you think about the future of independent bookshops? In some nice places, I see a bookshop out of nowhere, and it interests me that they're still alive.
Within the next ten years, will independent bookshops still be alive?
More importantly, will print still be alive?

I've seen many variations of this thread.

Independent bookstores are not going anywhere, just as major bookstores are not. Print will always be. Not everybody will use or can use an E-reader. Libraries have never been competition for bookstores.

shadowwalker
03-30-2011, 06:42 PM
B&N (used to be B Dalton) has a store in the city near here - was an old theater on the National Register that they converted *very carefully* so all the original castle theme and decor was preserved.

But there is nothing like wandering through a bookstore, whether it's a chain or Mom-and-Pop, picking up a book here and there, leafing through it, smelling the new paper, feeling the crisp pages... No general retailer could come close, and definitely not the internet.

Priene
03-30-2011, 06:44 PM
Independent bookstores are not going anywhere, just as major bookstores are not.

I'd agree with the first part, but the second is open to question. In Britain 15 years ago, there were three major chains - Waterstones, Ottakar's and Borders. The two latter are now gone, and Waterstones' future is constantly in doubt. It's easy to believe that there will be no bookchains left in five years.

Snowstorm
03-30-2011, 07:04 PM
I think there will still be bookstores, but probably specialized or niche, and/or combined with some other compatible business (coffee shop and used bookstore, for example, or small physical bookstore that does more of its business online as an Amazon marketplace seller).

This is what I was thinking reading the OP. I don't believe indie bookstores can stay open if that's all that's available in their store. They'll have to include other attractions.

In such a store about 30 miles away, they've added a coffee bar. That's the most popular segment of their store. When I sit in there, their special book orders appear to be robust. It's a sweet little store and I hope they can continue. Hubby and I love to give them business.

Tracey Taylor
03-30-2011, 07:24 PM
It seems like chained stores being able to continue to survive is going to depend on the country. I haven't heard anything about Chapters being in trouble here in Canada. I tried using Google to search for news but not much came up. It probably helps that our bookstore options are Chapters or a Mom-and-Pop store. The market isn't spread out across multiple chain stores.

brainstorm77
03-30-2011, 08:03 PM
It seems like chained stores being able to continue to survive is going to depend on the country. I haven't heard anything about Chapters being in trouble here in Canada. I tried using Google to search for news but not much came up. It probably helps that our bookstore options are Chapters or a Mom-and-Pop store. The market isn't spread out across multiple chain stores.

Chapter's here is doing really well. Everytime I have visited, there has always been a line at the cashier. And people are buying.

Phaeal
03-30-2011, 08:58 PM
Bookshop combined with coffee shop is the way to go, especially in a university town or neighborhood. The coffee shop needs to be significant, not just a table or couch or two -- say, a minimum of twenty tables. And it must have WiFi, of course. And a bouncer to throw out any Philistines who try to come in with Dunkin Donuts coffee clutched in their sweaty paws. *


* Not a comment on Dunkin Donuts quality, only on the mentality of people who will take up table space in an establishment without buying anything.

gothicangel
03-30-2011, 09:14 PM
Bookshop combined with coffee shop is the way to go, especially in a university town or neighborhood. The coffee shop needs to be significant, not just a table or couch or two -- say, a minimum of twenty tables. And it must have WiFi, of course. And a bouncer to throw out any Philistines who try to come in with Dunkin Donuts coffee clutched in their sweaty paws. *


* Not a comment on Dunkin Donuts quality, only on the mentality of people who will take up table space in an establishment without buying anything.

I've done this plenty of times in my catering history. Anyone want to hire me? :)

I would love to own a bookshop-come-coffee house.

PoppysInARow
03-30-2011, 10:03 PM
Chapter's here is doing really well. Everytime I have visited, there has always been a line at the cashier. And people are buying.

Ditto. The one I visit is ALWAYS full, to the point where I'm shoving people out of the way to get to my books. THEY'RE MY BOOKS I TELL YOU. :tongue

Jamesaritchie
03-30-2011, 10:48 PM
With eReaders, web fiction, and libraries, what do you think about the future of independent bookshops? In some nice places, I see a bookshop out of nowhere, and it interests me that they're still alive.
Within the next ten years, will independent bookshops still be alive?
More importantly, will print still be alive?

Yes, if civilization is still alive.

Tracey Taylor
03-30-2011, 11:13 PM
Chapter's here is doing really well. Everytime I have visited, there has always been a line at the cashier. And people are buying.
That's also been my experience whenever I go to Chapters as well. It's rare that I don't have to line up when I buy something.

Becky Black
03-31-2011, 12:18 AM
While E-Readers are great for novels, can they easily replace say books with a lot of pictures and illustrations - in colour, in large format? What about children's books? Especially very small children just learning to read, and keen to check out what this book tastes like too. How about recipe books with their mouthwatering pictures and tendency to get splashed with gravy or hot fat? I've got loads of books I couldn't imagine an ebook being an effective repalcement of until the technology has moved on a long, long way.

Atlantis
03-31-2011, 04:01 AM
The introduction of ebooks has made alot of people not want to spend $20-$60 on paper and hard books anymore and who can blame them when they can pick up ebooks for 99c or an entire novel for less than five dollars. I think more and more people will probably turn to ereaders as time goes by. I'm going to do it sometime soon.

I'm buying a new bookcase on the weekend and it's the last one I'm going to be getting in a while. I don't have any space for another one. Once that is full I am going to get an ereader. I kinda feel like I have no choice. I want to keep buying books (and keeping them) but I do not have the space. I love my home library and I'm not going to cull it if I have too. My partner collects CDs and has about two hundred of them. We made a promise to each other: He won't tell me to cull my DVD and book collection and I will tell him to cull his CD collection. ;)

I don't think bookstores and print publishing will vanish entirely. They will still be around but they will not be the norm.

gothicangel
03-31-2011, 01:05 PM
The introduction of ebooks has made alot of people not want to spend $20-$60 on paper and hard books anymore and who can blame them when they can pick up ebooks for 99c or an entire novel for less than five dollars. I think more and more people will probably turn to ereaders as time goes by. I'm going to do it sometime soon.



Yes if you like restricting yourself to self-published titles. I still pay 18.99 for a book whether it is a print or ebook.

Charlee
03-31-2011, 02:42 PM
My local bookshop always has customers I've never seen it empty even during the day on a week day. I think that the experience of browsing in a bookshop can't be replicated and that's why if they do die off it wont be for a long time yet.

Jettica
03-31-2011, 02:47 PM
It's nowhere near the only one in the city. There's the hooge place on St Giles, the one in a courtyard near Head in the Clouds, the antiquarian place at the end of St Benedicts, the musty one in Elm Hill, and one opposite the Cathedral on Tombland. There are probably a couple more I've forgotten.

Ahh, they're pimping themselves as the only independent books shop in Norwich! I thought that couldn't be right.

Susan Littlefield
03-31-2011, 06:33 PM
I'd agree with the first part, but the second is open to question. In Britain 15 years ago, there were three major chains - Waterstones, Ottakar's and Borders. The two latter are now gone, and Waterstones' future is constantly in doubt. It's easy to believe that there will be no bookchains left in five years.

I'm talking more globally. Borders may not be in your town anymore, but it is still in existence. It won't be closing down all its stores. I've never heard of Ottaker's, and I only know of Waterstones because of discussions here.

Priene
03-31-2011, 07:02 PM
Borders may not be in your town anymore, but it is still in existence.

Borders UK was a separate company. It's dead as a proverbial.

Glen T. Brock
03-31-2011, 09:00 PM
Hello folks,

I was in the book business for over thirty years and I can write with authority on the subject. Shrinking profit margins, combined with massive price increases, aare the primary villians over time. When I entered the business most paperbacks were less than a dollar retail with at least a 40% discount. When I retired the average price of the paperback was $5.95 and, because of middlemen, the profit margin sharnk to 30% or less. This was before the developement of Amazon and Ingrams was first beginning. Also during this time publishers began to shrink their lists, favoring best sellers to genre releases. Finally, book distribution spread into the grocery store and discount market. Too many cooks were now stirring the pot for less money.

Second hand stores will last longer than the retail brick and mortar stores but they have limitations as well. As the market shrinks the availability of product will decline, especially in niche and genre areas. Also the taste of the public changes as well. The growth of video and game related material shrinks the marketability of books and magazines.

This makes for a grim future for the industry.

Glen T. Brock

Kyra Wright
03-31-2011, 11:40 PM
I think that the experience of browsing in a bookshop can't be replicated and that's why if they do die off it wont be for a long time yet.
I agree. I have a Kindle, but I still go to bookstores regularly because I love browsing. And I still walk out with several purchases. For me, nothing can beat the bookstore atmosphere.

Susan Littlefield
03-31-2011, 11:55 PM
Borders UK was a separate company. It's dead as a proverbial.

Thank you for claifying.

readitnweep
04-01-2011, 03:35 AM
My brother owns a large used bookshop in San Diego along a street that featured 15 such shops twenty years ago. Now, his is the only one left. He has a large selection but does have a niche as he specializes in theology and out-of-prints and does signficant online business now. But it's tough.

I love bookshops - new and used, though I have a preference for used, because I can find really interesting odd things there. The industry has definitely taken a huge hit over the last ten or fifteen years. No question. And an above poster was spot on about having a niche or specialty. Plus loyalty. My brother has made of the same customers he's had since he started.

But I can't see them leaving all together. I think we're in a weeding process. The Borders near me is closing, but they've not managed their inventory well since the economy fell. I used to find things in there all the time, but the last few years, unless I'm buying a best seller, which I confess I rarely do, I don't find anything. There has to be a niche. Half-Price Books does great here, but they move inventory like crazy, because they put everything on clearance once it's been on the shelf X amount of time. Borders and other big stores weren't willing to do that.