The Future of Bookstores

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 10:42am

What does the demise of Borders and rise of e-readers mean for independent book stores?

That crashing sound you've been hearing is the sound of big box bookstores tumbling down.

What does their demise mean for the survival of independent bookshops?

Pete Mulvihill of San Francisco's iconic Green Apple Bookstore isn't about to dance on any store's grave, big or small, but he isn't crying either.

"We weren't huge fans of their aggressive expansion. They knocked a lot of independent stores out of business. That said, we're still here, as are I think 40 bookstores in San Francisco and 200, 250 in northern California," he says.

A number of independents didn't make it.

Websites like Amazon and the rise of e-readers have pushed many booksellers off the shelf.

Still, Mulvihill is optimistic.

"People are surviving," he says. "We still have 500 people walk through the doors everyday, even though they can find some of the things online cheaper."

Green Apple customer Susie Whipps says the closing of the book chains means she's even more likely to shop locally.

"I think it's even more important to come to these smaller bookstores because I think supporting good literature that's on a page and you can dogear and read in bed is more important," she says.

The same economic turmoil that hit bookstores has meant a big rise in usage at public libraries.

Just like small bookstores, they're adapting to changing readership habits.

"All the different formats that materials come in today is something that libraries have to try and provide as well, so everybody can get access to the same materials," says librarian Jill Bourne.

Mulvihill is also taking on the electronic book revolution head on.

His in-store customers can use smartphones to buy Google e-books from his online shop.

"I think people, especially in the Bay area realize if they don't shop at their mom and pop store, be it a hardware store or a book store or anywhere else, they are going to disappear," he says.
 

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