A Series of Not-So-Unfortunate Events: The Surge of Indie Bookstores
September 30, 2015
September 30, 2015
While Starbucks tries to eliminate lines and Apple attempts to build a car, another form of technology is losing steam. eBooks, which put the print industry in a frenzy a few years ago, have seen sales slow sharply according to The New York Times. While some analysts were certain that print would be overtaken by eBooks by 2015 that has proven to not be the case. In fact, the American Booksellers Association reported that the number of independent bookstores has increased from 1,410 in 2010 to 1,712 member stores in 2015, providing a healthier market than the industry has seen in a long time.
Personally, exploring indie and rare book shops is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend afternoon. Reading, and discovering new books, is an experience. While shoppers can expect the same book selection and Starbucks beverages at Barnes & Noble locations across the country, independent bookshops have the opportunity to market their uniqueness and value in ways that corporate chains do not. The Boston area is home to many well-loved independent bookstores that keep customers coming back, so I decided to take a look at what sets a couple of my favorites apart from their competitors:
Located on Newbury Street, Trident seems to be a hub of activity no matter what time of day I visit. On top of a well-stocked book collection, Trident offers a full dining experience in their café. If you’re deciding on brunch plans, I suggest grabbing a new read and ordering some of Trident’s Lemon Ricotta French Toast. Like many other bookstores, Trident hosts readings and signings, but the bookstore positions itself differently by also hosting cooking demonstrations with some of Boston’s most-renowned chefs and weekly trivia at which attendees can win a $35 gift card. If you’re looking for a venue for an upcoming holiday party or birthday, Trident’s upper level is available for events.
With visits from high-profile authors, such as actress and comedy writer Mindy Kaling, the Brookline Booksmith attracts customers consistently. The Brookline Booksmith is designed for the whole community, with book clubs and author discussions ranging from humor to fiction to parenting. Brookline Booksmith features a used book cellar in its lower level and a quirky gift shop tucked away in the back. The shelves of the Booksmith are stocked with a wide range of titles that aren’t just best sellers. Most bookstores highlight suggestions from the staff, but what I really like about the Brookline Booksmith is the authenticity of the staff selections. Rather than displaying suggested books all together on one shelf or having typed cards that read along the lines of “Great book! I highly suggest! – Mark,” the Booksmith keeps suggested titles intermingled with the rest of the selection and places handwritten notes from the staff in front of the books. And these notes are never one or two overgeneralized sentences about the book – the sales associates’ passion for reading is evident in their book suggestions. Another plus: The Brookline Booksmith is pet-friendly.
Some other favorites of mine: The Harvard Bookstore, which hosts big names like Amy Poehler and Chelsea Clinton every month; used and rare bookshop Commonwealth Books with resident cat Rusty; the Brattle Book Shop and its outdoor selection area (BuzzFeed even featured Brattle in one of its listicles).
While the rise of indie bookshops is promising for print book lovers, the reality is that eBooks won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Amazon’s Kindle, which controls 65 percent of the eBook market, may be able to market convenience and instantaneous satisfaction in delivery, but independent bookstores have the opportunity to market themselves as places the community can gather for enriching experiences. Will we continue to see growth in the independent bookstore market? I sure hope so!