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Independent Bookstores

Retail bookstores have been a haven for book lovers forever, but are struggling to survive in the internet/digital age with chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble, e-books, Kindle, i-pad, and Amazon all competing for the reading publics dollars. Digital books are replacing the traditional hard-covered book, and paperbacks as well. As a result of changes in marketing and retail, the chain bookstores frequently will carry only high volume books, and bestsellers, as low volume or “boutique” books take up shelf space, but generate only a small part of the stores revenue. Specialty books, like most art and photography books, belong to this group, so are carried by few stores and rely on internet marketing to get an audience, or sell poorly for lack of public awareness. Independent bookstores fill a real niche in bringing local authors and culture into the community they serve, and providing a place for browsing and learning, and reading, and thinking, and book clubs, and just many things a community needs to thrive. It is common to combine the bookstore with a small cafe, coffee house, or gallery to help bring people in and improve the economics of book selling. Amazon offers cheap prices, but little else, and starves the community of the bookstore as a cultural meeting place. A few independent bookstores have managed to stay in business with targeted community support. Kepler’s Bookstore in Palo Alto was reopened after closing, after the community decided it was too valuable a resource to loose. Unfortunately, most independent bookstores have not been so lucky. The San Francisco Bay Area has been fortunate to have some great independent bookstores that are still open, and great places to shop and browse. Kepler’s is one, Books,Inc. is another. Santa Cruz has –Bookshop Santa Cruz–a fabulous knowledge factory, and we now have a new bookshop in Los Gatos, The Village House of Books, on Village lane. These are places that your community needs, and adds value to your own property–like a good school adds value. It makes sense to shop there. Amazon does not add value to your community. The local bookstores will often help local authors as well by taking books on consignment. This helps the local author get a book known, and helps the bookstore by not having to purchase the books outright. This is especially helpful for the “boutique” or special interest book, or an expensive photography book. So this is my suggestion for you book lovers. Forget cheap! Buy from your local independent bookseller and your community will have a bookstore for you and your children to enjoy. P. Miller www.humanlandscapes.com

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