Sunday, July 24, 2011

So You’ve Lost Your Borders

Hundreds of Borders locations will be closing over the next week or so. They’ll be liquidating their inventories, laying off their employees, and closing their doors. So what to do if your bookstore is a Borders?

Find an Independent Bookstore Near You: IndieBound.Org is the online presence of the American Booksellers Association. Use its store finder to see if there’s a bookstore near you. Just plug in your zip code and the miles away you’re willing to go and you’ll get a list of stores. Because indie bookstores don’t usually have much money for advertising, there’s a chance there’s a store on the other side of town or the next city over you just haven’t heard of.

Shop Online at a Store in Your State: Unfortunately, if you had a Borders in your area it is likely you didn’t have an indie bookstore. If there is an “It Gets Worse” about the Borders story it is that all of their mistakes caused their failure after they contributed to the demise of hundreds of independent bookstores over the last decades. However, most indie bookstores sell books online, and most will ship books to you as well. If you don’t want to pay for shipping and the closest store is too far away, hundreds of indie bookstores sell Google ebooks through their websites. Google ebooks can be read on many different devices including, computers, laptops, smart phones, and tablets like the iPad. Most ebooks sold at indie bookstores are the same price as at all other ebook stores and you don’t have to buy a specialized device to read them.

Find a new Favorite Store Online: Hundreds of indie stores (including us) are on Twitter and Facebook and run blogs. Look around online for a bit. If you find yourself retweeting, liking posts, or reading a store’s blog fairly often, start shopping with them. They can only tweet, post, and blog if people buy books from them.

Powells and The Strand: Powells, in Portland, OR and The Strand in NYC are two huge independent bookstores that sell new and used books online. Between the two of them, there is a book inventory just about as big as Amazon’s.

Talk to Your Local Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, Small Business Association...: Nothing can replace popping into a bookstore to get out of the rain. Wandering around the stacks just to see what catches your eye. Meeting friends. Getting your picture taken with your favorite author. There are some things that can be done only in a physical bookstore. So talk to the relevant agencies to make getting a bookstore into your community a priority. There are lots of things local government and agencies can do, from streamlining licensing and zoning procedures, to low interest loans and property tax breaks that can help get a town a bookstore. Make a bookstore a community priority. Furthermore, locally owned businesses are great for the local economy. Given that states, counties, and cities will often give big national chains tax breaks, incentives for small local businesses shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially given that the return on investment would be much higher from the local business. Here is more information on the impact of local businesses.

Everyone knows bookstores fill important roles in their communities, one of which is selling books. But the only way bookstores can do all the other important work they do, like providing a safe space for young people to hang out or getting books for local schools or providing a haven of slow moving contemplation in our information deluge society, is because people buy books from them. The closing of Borders is tragic, but if people respond by shopping at indie bookstores, there will be more indie bookstores. If you make the effort to shop indie two towns over, it will greatly increase the chances of getting an indie store in your town.

For further reading and to see how other independents around the country are doing, check out this link.

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