So how can the little guy – the local bookstore – compete with the likes of Amazon?
Some market analysts speculate that Amazon sales will account for 50 percent of all book sales in the US by the end of 2012, which is stunning since book-selling has actually become the minority revenue stream for Amazon now that the company has branched out into a market for everything from video games to sex toys. Amazon has become a primary competitor not just to Barnes & Noble but also to Walmart, eBay, Apple’s iTunes, and even Netflix.
Amazon’s influence has allowed it to position itself not only as the largest bookseller in the country but also as a distributor. This means that it has effectively cut the middleman out of publishing, allowing it to offer books to the reader at the lowest price while paying the publisher a larger percentage of the sales. For me as a publisher, this means that not only can you get the latest title from my press, Black Ocean, for less from Amazon, but my little indie press will also probably make more off that purchase than if you had bought it at your local bookseller.
In the Boston area, two bookstores have managed to not only survive but thrive: the Harvard Bookstore (not affiliated with Harvard University) in Cambridge and Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA. These two stores have a few elements in common that have undoubtedly contributed to their lasting success:
- In addition to new books, they also sell a great selection of used titles at lower prices.
- They have robust websites that offer options to buy online with quick local delivery (the Harvard Bookstore even offers next-day delivery by bicycle to select areas) as well as blog posts and features.
- They have interesting and revelatory staff selections.
- They each host over 100 readings a year (Brookline Booksmith hosts around 150, and Harvard Bookstore is closer to 300).
- Both stores have been enthusiastic with their response when approached by Black Ocean to sell our titles.