Indie bookstore shares their secret for success

While browsing through Publishers Weekly’s Opinion section, I happened upon Pete Mulvihill’s article, “How Bookstores Survive in the Age of Amazon.” The co-owner of Green Apple Books let us in on their secret for success, but stressed that we shouldn’t get hung up on numbers. This advice might seem counterintuitive for some business people, but I think he’s onto something.

According to Mulvihill, even successful stores could disappear for a number of reasons. He admits that one day indie bookstores might not be able to keep up with technology, yet he’s not pessimistic about the future.

Instead Mulvihill focuses on the present, on answering the needs of his local community, and on his love for his job – that’s what brings in the customers.

He writes, “‘It may not be a good living, but it’s a good life.’” This highlights that bookselling in today’s world is not a business done to accumulate fame and fortune. If you sell books, you should do it because you love it. It’s that consideration for books and people that will help booksellers meet customers’ needs.

I visited two independent bookstores in San Francisco this year: City Lights Booksellers and Publishers and Green Apple Books. After that experience, returning to my local Barnes & Noble was depressing.

Cristina E. Garcia standing next to the famous City Lights Books.

Cristina E. Garcia standing next to the famous City Lights Books.

Rather than focusing on books and having gizmos as an aside, my local B&N has a whole first floor dedicated to knickknacks, e-readers and toys with books as an afterthought. They thinned shelves and slowly phased out seating within the store to discourage patrons from staying. They even enacted a policy that prohibits potential buyers from sitting on the floor. Is it any surprise they’re becoming obsolete?

Rather than answering the needs of the local community, the B&N is focused on making money and cutting corners wherever they deem necessary. They think the answer lies in e-readers, but they’re only partially right.

If the company isn’t meeting consumers’ needs, consumers will opt for another bookseller. Even though B&N sells e-books, I go to Amazon because their e-books are cheaper and frankly I’m deeply upset with B&N’s customer service. And after the Bitch Magazine article I wrote about last week, now I’m looking for another e-book seller.

That said, where do you buy your books and why do you choose that particular bookseller?

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