Niche bookstores may be industry survivors

July 27, 2011 3:33:38 PM PDT
With the closing of the Borders bookstore chain, and the growing popularity of e-book readers, what is the future of brick and mortar bookstores?

The sell off at Borders bookstores is expected to run through September. The chain is liquidating its book collections nationwide. But the end of Borders may not be the end of bookstores in general.

Down the street from the Oak Park Borders, The Book Table has already increased magazine stock when Borders cut back, and it's advertising its e-books with the book displays.

"We just listen to our customers, listen to what they're asking for," said The Book Table's Rachel Weaver. "And gradually over time, this is the store we've built, and I think it works the same way with technology."

The Book Table has a niche in selling discounted new and used books.

Around the corner, The Magic Tree bookstore has had its niche in children's books for 27 years. Magic Tree opens regularly for events -- ABC7 came upon story time. The store owner says their immersion in the community and partnerships with educators helps keeping the store viable.

"We send out e-notices to our customers that are on our e-news file. We have to be more nimble," said Magic Tree's Rose Joseph.

Book distributors are seeing the industry shift. One distributor sees stores that are surviving have a clear focus.

"I think they know their community. And I think that they're pretty savvy. They're cautious," said Barbara Aronson, Fujii Associates Publisher representative.

ABC7 found a new generation of readers who are sticking with books in hand.

"It's just faster to get the book, and some computers are kinda slow like mine," said Sean Califf.

"I've done it a couple times, but it hurts your eyes and it's better when you hold it in your hand," said Sarah Sarhan.

"It's just better if you read in real life, because you can turn the page and you don't have to zoom," said Malek Sarhan.

"It's fun to look through books, and when I go through the sections and I see a book with a cool cover, I'll look at it, as opposed to if it was online and just saw the title," said Meredith Boardman.

ABC7 also found some parents who still prefer the paper route -- especially with young kids.

"She enjoys reading on an iPad or a computer screen as well, but when we are going to sit down and read books she wants to feel them, she wants to turn the pages, she wants to see the illustrations," said Alexandra Altman.

Another bookstore chain closed in Oak Park a year ago. At that time, the independent bookstores saw an uptick in business. While there is no joy in seeing another bookseller leave, the owners hope book enthusiasts will continue to shop local.

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