Independent bookstores, Amazon all report successful holiday season

Many independent bookstores reported holiday sales as good or better than last year's, while Amazon called the 2013 holiday season its best ever.

Nam Y. Huh/AP
Holiday shoppers board a Nordstrom's escalator in Chicago. This year, books were a popular holiday gift.

There's good news from every corner of the book world this holiday season, from independent bookstores to online behemoth bookseller Amazon.

Editors at bookselling industry newsletter Shelf Awareness say that every bookstore they queried reported holiday sales this year were at least as good if not better than last year. And for some stores, the 2013 holiday season was superlative.

According to online giant Amazon, this year’s holiday season was the best ever, as reported in a company statement. In addition, a record number of people signed up for the company’s Amazon Prime program during the third week of December, according to the online bookseller. (Lured perhaps by the superior shipping options offered to Prime members?)

As pointed out by Shelf Awareness, 2013’s holiday season at the independent bookstores they surveyed wasn’t dominated by one particular literary blockbuster. Instead, a cluster of strong titles – including books like “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt and “The Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin – all sold well.

Third Place Books in Seattle experienced some of its best sales days ever in the time leading up to Christmas, said managing partner Robert Sindelar, with one of the store’s locations experiencing increased sales from last year and the other staying even. Meanwhile, in Manasquan, N.J., Booktowne had its best holiday season ever since it opened in 2007, said owner Rita Maggio. 

“Sales were up and there was clear evidence that the community was committed to shopping locally,” Maggio told Shelf Awareness.

The famous Strand Bookstore of New York City reported experiencing its strongest sales day ever in 86 years in business on Dec. 23. The Saturday before that had previously been the highest-selling day in the store’s history until the record was beaten again just a few days later.

“This was astounding for us,” Fred Bass, the store’s owner, told CBS. “We were just shocked.”

Other independent bookstores that experienced record-breaking sales days ever before Christmas included the California group DIESEL, which said its Brentwood location experienced the highest sales in the history of all its stores on Dec. 24. Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., also posted its best sales ever on Dec. 23 as well.

DIESEL co-owner John Evans told Shelf Awareness the happiness of shoppers was a highlight as well. 

“I was especially surprised and delighted by how many people, when offered help, just said, 'I am just so happy to be here,’” Evans said. “'I'm having a bookstore moment of being absolutely content being here and browsing!'’”

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