Independent bookstores capture headlines in 2013
Many were sounding the death knell for independent bookstores as first Barnes & Noble and then Amazon rose to prominence. But indie stores have surprised the naysayers.
Is 2013 the year of the indie bookstore?Skip to next paragraph
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A popular piece by the Washington Post has revived talk about the resurgence of the independent bookstore.
That piece, “Independent bookstores turn a new page on brick-and-mortar retailing,” follows the surprising success of an indie bookstore in Frederick, Md., and outlines the reasons behind the comeback of the indies.
By now, we’ve all heard the story: Due to the dominance of the one national chain left; the vast selection, influence, and undercutting prowess of online “bully” Amazon; and the booming popularity of the supposedly print-killing e-book, independent bookstores were to go the way of the tablet (stone, not electronic, that is).
But, as Monitor correspondent Yvonne Zipp wrote in a March 2013 cover story, “A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.”
Independent bookstores, while not necessarily thriving, are doing just fine. More indies opened than closed this year, sales are rising, and advocates from President Obama to novelists Ann Patchett and James Patterson are fighting for the underdog by shopping indie, donating big bucks, or in the case of Patchett, opening an independent bookstores of her own.
In other words, contrary to what industry execs predicted a quarter century ago, indies are far from dying.
“Twenty-five years ago, independents were supposed to vanish when Waldenbooks showed up in malls,” writes the Washington Post. “They were supposed to vanish when Borders and Barnes & Noble came along with endless selection and comfy chairs. They were supposed to vanish when Costco started selling the latest Doris Kearns Goodwin. They were supposed to vanish when Amazon perfected low prices and fast shipments….”
Of course, we all know the punchline now: while Waldenbooks and Borders shuttered and Barnes & Noble is limping along, indies are still around.
“We are a lot like Mark Twain: The rumors of our death are a little bit exaggerated,” Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association told the Washington Post. “We have been counted out for a very long time.”