Friday, May 14, 2010

Bookstore Models Changing

In order to survive, books need bookstores - whether bricks & mortar or online. I've been interested to see what form these stores take nowadays, traditional or otherwise. And I'm always impressed when people go beyond the usual comment, however true, about bookstores being important for a community, and instead are pro-active about getting the community to blatantly support the store. It's the heady mix of capitalism and charity that is becoming a common model in many industries and social services these days.

At breathe books in Baltimore, proprietress Susan L. Weis has asked for help from her customers. She is hoping customers will invest in the store, not so she can merely stay open but so that she may expand. This is a bold move and one that seems in fact quite smart. It's not testing loyalty so much as sharing excitement. She says the store has turned a profit every year since opening and even hired on a full-time store manager. This isn't a plea to save a dying store, but an opportunity to be involved with an asset to the community, that is ready to offer more to customers. She even terms it "a community investment program." I love the simplicity of that phrase, as it seems to hide nothing.

Weis gives the potential donor options: "You can either donate money, invest in the store and receive interest on your principal (2% - 4% - you choose your interest), or purchase gift cards that never expire but have a start date one-year from purchase." Smart thinking - make it easy.

I want to wish breathe books the very best, and I hope other bookstores think through such models. If community's really do want to support bookstores - not just have them there so they can look at the books they might buy at Amazon or elsewhere online, as Mark Lamphier of Harvard Bookstore recounts in the video we recently posted - then it is entirely fair to tell them to pull out their virtual checkbooks.

And just quickly, I want to send out an apology to the woman on the train this morning who missed her stop on the Red line. I was smiling as she kicked the door and cursed, but that's only because she missed the stop due to a particularly engrossing book. Dean Koontz isn't my favorite author - I read one book after my mother took offense to my snubbing of him without having read him, and found it too trite - but I was just so pleased to see how buried she was in a book on the train! Poor gal - she was still cursing by the time we pulled into the next stop, as she ran off to catch the train in the opposite direction.

(Link to article on breathe books from today's installment of Shelf Awareness)

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