My name is Janet Geddis, and I am proud to be an independent bookseller. I started
my journey over three years ago and, despite some unbelievable downs and even more
miraculous ups, I am soon expanding my business. Since 2009, Avid Bookshop has been
an online and events-based bookselling business, but this summer we’re moving into our
first retail storefront. I couldn’t be more excited.
For people who don’t know how well many indies are doing, my enthusiasm may
seem unfounded in the wake of news about the big boxes’ struggle. But independent
bookselling is alive and well, and the American Booksellers Association’s membership
has actually increased in the last couple of years. As the dinosaurs struggle to adapt,
more adept independently-owned bookstore owners are changing with the changing
market and making sure they stay relevant. I am among them.
As someone who follows the ups and downs of the bookselling industry, I wasn’t at all
surprised to hear that Borders finally made the decision to liquidate. I have written at
length about my feelings and fears about the impending closing (no, I’m not jumping for
joy even though one of “the big guys” is soon to be no longer)—see posts here and here.
In the midst of all this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news for Borders, my own
bookstore dreams are flourishing. It feels wonderful and off-putting at the same time.
Last week I drove to my real estate broker’s office, Avid Bookshop’s first store lease in
hand. I’d signed it just minutes before and was dropping it off so that the landlord could
also put his pen to this almighty paper. My heart was pounding rapidly. After all this,
these years of planning and hurry-up-and-wait, I had signed a lease. The dream was
On the drive over, I flipped on the radio. As I pulled into the parking lot and reached
across the seat for the envelope holding the lease, NPR moved onto a story about the
closing of Borders. I sat in the car, engine off but radio on, and listened to the story.
The tale was one of hubris, of mistakes, of a store trying to do too much with too little
flexibility. I wondered if I was one of the only people in America at that moment in
my particular position: about to take a big step in my own bookselling journey while
listening to the [temporary, at least] end of 10,000+ bookselling jobs.
I grasped the lease more tightly and wondered if I should be experiencing any last-minute
epiphanies, if there was any room for second thoughts.
And you know what? I turned off the radio and walked into the office, dropping the lease
off right then and there. I am prepared. My business plan is solid yet nimble. My book
industry connections are strong. I am ready. And I am not scared.