The current news is Borders book stores are history. They're talking about cutting down from about 600 stores down to 50--and that might not be enough to survive. Gosh! It does look like the only place to buy a book is either at Barnes&Noble or at Amazon.

This can't be good. But how in hell do you start up and run an indie-type bookstore and survive?

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Well, Borders started as a single store, expanded regionally, and then very quickly became the Starbucks of discount booksellers--for awhile it seemed like they were building them on every corner. There are a couple of things that are killing Borders, I think: first is Amazon, obviously, and there's also the rapid decline in CD sales--when I worked at Borders in downtown DC, lo these many moons ago, part of the business plan was to discount the hell out of bestsellers and make up the difference by selling CDs and videos (then DVDs) at full retail. It worked, sort of--although it also alienated a lot of customers who felt they were being overcharged for CDs. That model no longer functions, and to make up for the lost revenue Borders has made some questionable decisions--big staff cutbacks at a lot of stores, cramming the aisles with weird, unrelated products (the Burt's Bees syndrome, I call it), and generally acting like a big, obnoxious corporation instead of a neighborhood bookstore. I think it's likely they'll continue to contract, and probably ultimately what's left will get bought up by B&N, which seems to be doing okay.
Christ, there are days I can't type woth hooey--and Jon. . . I don't even drink!!
I don't know about starting an indie bookstore, but I know that, as a consumer, I'm not about to pay more for books just so I can avoid other companies that are "too big" or whatever. I don't like monopolies either, because they tend to lead to lower quality and higher prices, but for now anyway, I'm content with using Amazon exclusively. They always have what I want, and they always provide it cheaper then anyone else and they get it to me fast. If another store can compete with that then I'll give them a shot, but until then, I'll stick with Amazon.
If I ever had that kind of experience with Amazon I would ditch them too. I want the best deal; I don't care who's offering it. I live in a good location for buying from Amazon, though. I live in Kentucky, and we have four Amazon warehouses in the state. To put that in perspective, there are only 15 warehouses in the whole country. So I get my books in three days or less and haven't had any stocking issues. Yet.
My experiences buying from Amazon have been good. We don't have an indie where I live. I will not buy from B&N or Borders because they have not supported my books. I might feel that way about an independent bookstore also if they didn't stock my books reliably or returned part of their order. Amazon at least treats me the same as any other author, and they use the same methods to alert buyers to my books. That beats bookstores that care only about bestselling authors all to hell.
And I bought Dragon Scroll at Barnes & Noble in Memphis, Tennessee. :-)
There are exceptions. :) My local B&Ns are very indifferent.
I don't know why, but part of me wants to break in to song-- "Ding Dong the Witch is dead. The wicked witch. ..." I hope the demise of Borders, if true, will somehow strengthen the Indies out there, but I suspect it will only serve to lessen the choices of the reading public, and set loose a tide of feckless espresso jockeys upon the world. God, help us all.

John--half of the appeal about a bookstore is the casual stroll looking at the racks and making a discovery of something totally unexpected. How does Amazon provide that?

Basically the majority of human souls need community. Libraries and bookstores, for a reader, provides that community. I really can't see a world without either no matter how wonderfully complex the Net becomes.
I understand that. I just don't feel the same way. I've discovered more books through browsing Amazon than I even did in a bookstore, probably because bookstores don't carry a lot of the stuff I like to read. I'll gladly give up the casual strolling through the shelves if it means I save $10 a book, which in many cases, I have.
And I've discovered more books browsing blogs and places like CrimeSpace.
Very true. And also the library.


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