In the latest issue of Fast Company magazine, reporter Jennifer Miller provides some great insights on what indie bookstores are doing to reshape their business. The full article can be viewed on onlineor in the September issue, but here are some of their best strategies.
At Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts, “we try to have everybody buy a book and something else,” says co-owner Dana Brigham. So a third of the floor space gets ceded to products that complement nearby books: spatulas and wine stoppers next to cookbooks, say, or vases and floral stationery in the gardening section.
Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, casts itself as a hub of ideas–not just books–by hosting Thacker Mountain Radio, a sort of A Prairie Home Companion, on local radio. (The live audience of about 170 crams between bookshelves.) And if anyone within a mile of city limits wants a book, employees bring it to them in person. “Amazon brags about how fast they can get books to you, but we can get ours out faster,” says owner Richard Howorth.
Be A Printing Press
“We wanted to give Village Books a new face,” says co-owner Chuck Robinson. So in 2009 the Bellingham, Washington, store leased an Espresso Book Machine, which can print a 200-page, professional-looking book in 10 minutes. The store now produces out-of-print books for customers and lets self-published authors host readings and print their work on the spot.
Help the Competition
Earlier this year, Subterranean Books in St. Louis nearly closed. To save it, four nearby stores formed the Independent Bookstore Alliance. The group is now 12 strong and takes turns hosting big events such as speed-dating nights for bibliophiles and a “technology petting zoo” where customers can play around with e-readers (then learn how to order Google e-books through Alliance members).
Beginning this month, BookCourt in Brooklyn, New York, will stream in-store readings live on its website, bookcourt.tv. Viewers can get their books signed and mailed to them. “We want people watching in Minnesota to feel that they’re at the event–or even people in Manhattan who don’t want to come down to Brooklyn,” says manager Zack Zook.