Are e-Readers Just a Fad?

Closing Too Soon

 e-reader fadI just found a used bookstore for sale via the internet.  In the listing, the current owner writes, “Looking for a new owner who knows people read something other than the Kindle.”
I’ve seen a few bookstores liquidating inventory, listing their store for sale on eBay, and simply closing up shop.  My immediate thought isn’t, “Boy, it’s a shame the market shut them down” or “I guess the e-readers drove them out of business.”  My response is, “They closed too soon!”  I know of one former bookseller who closed his shop after 6 months of poor sales.  I tried to make suggestions about things he could improve, but he had already “checked out” from bookselling.  He was discouraged because another local used bookshop was closing down at the same time.  I told him that he’d be the only game in town, things would get better, and to think about the years of positive cash flow he had.  “Stay in there” is easy to say when you’re running successful shops.  With 5 stores, I can have a slow quarter at one location as long as other locations are staying strong.  There are many advantages to owning a multi-store chain.  However, I do think that the solo independent bookstore, new or used, can make it nowadays.  These booksellers need to stick it out, fight the good fight, and let this fad called “e-reading” subside.

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What’s Happening to Teen Literature?


Has anyone else noticed the incredible push toward publishing books geared toward 12+? A number of major fiction authors have crossed over into teen writing (e.g. John Grisham, James Patterson). Does anyone know why this is happening?
I can only assume that the big bucks earned from the likes of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games is having an affect. I wonder if teens are actually reading more, or do they latch onto the “book of the year” and then quit reading until the next smash hit comes out? Are more teen books being written in the hopes that teenagers will cross over from Twilight and read other similar authors like PC Cast, Richelle Mead, etc? Or is there a genuine desire, on behalf of the publishers, to see teens reading more?
From the perspective of our stores, whatever the publishers are doing right now… it’s working. We sell a lot of teen books. Until recently, we had a hard time keeping a good selection of used teen books in stock. Once more and more authors starting pointing their writing pen toward young adults, our selection grew… and so did our young readers. We were able to entice them with a wider array, allowing us to make more suggestions, hence making more sales.

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Is Free Help in the Bookshop Wise?

After church this past Sunday, a 15-year-old girl came to me and asked, “Do you allow free help in your stores?”
I told her, “I’ll think about it.” Consequently, it made me think about a number of times I’ve been asked that same question in the past. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, even if you know the individual who is interested. Yes, you can allow a friend to come spend their off hours shelving books in your store. Yes, you can have a good time while they are there, enjoying each other’s company while being doubly productive due to the extra help. But, then there’s the practical side: What happens if they promise to come help, you prepare jobs for them, and they don’t show up one day? Will they expect some sort of compensation by way of a discount on books, a gift card for the store, etc? Will they know how to deal with customers who assume your volunteer is a paid, knowledgeable employee?

It’s almost easier and less hassle to pay someone a set wage for a set number of hours. Free isn’t always free… especially if they cost you sales. Will they know how to defer to customers who are perusing the shelves? Will they move out of the way?

All of these questions come up because we’ve had many paid employees yet we’ve also had a few freebies. The pro bono help has been good overall. However, we had a few times where someone promised to come shelve books and straighten our toy shelves, yet they didn’t come when expected. So, we got backed up in our staging area. I had to pay extra hours to other workers just to cover the backlog of books that needed to be shelved. Then, the free help would show up unexpectedly… after everything had been done. At that point, we need to find work for them… taking time away from our current job to do so.

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What's Your Favorite Bookshop Website?

Shane Gottwals

A Tour of Bookstore Websites

I spent two days last week looking at 87 different bookstore websites. After doing all that, I came to a couple of conclusions: 1. my eyes hurt and 2. bookstores do a poor job with their websites.

Obviously, most of us don’t have the funds to hire a web developer. However, I saw layouts that weren’t centered, words misspelled, and images that were of poor quality. Many of the websites didn’t have pictures of their stores at all. Isn’t this essential? If you are a brick-and-mortar only, you must have a website that will lure people into the store. I saw a story in a magazine that stated that a website is a company’s key to get customers through the door.

I did see some great sites. The ones I like, in particular, chronicle the life of the store from its inception. There’s a store in Georgia ( that has great images of all the work being done, a story about the original concept, and well-places text and pictures. Nightbird Books ( uses something as simple as flikr to put all their photos in one place, making the interface super easy. I got the idea to put a gazebo into our store from the people at Books Plus.

In particular, I like bookstore websites so that I can keep track on how others operate their stores. I want to make sure that I’m current with the trends, trying my best to make our stores “POP”. I could probably write a book about web development using the pros and cons from the sites I’ve seen. While I haven’t used many direct ideas from other stores over the years, scanning all the web pages really gives you a good understanding of what the bookstore world is accomplishing. There are many stores that have been around for 30+ years. There are stores that are local destinations, well-known for being the best place to hang around. There are stores on islands, stores in bedroom communities, and stores in some of the most expensive areas of the biggest cities. Some stores have been around for decades; I think of The Strand in New York, particularly.

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A Week in the Life of a Multiple Location Bookshop Owner

Shane Gottwals Gottwals Books, as of this coming Friday, is a 4-store operation. This would be adventuresome enough if all the stores were within a close proximity, but our newest location in North Carolina is seven hours away. In the past four weeks, here is my typical schedule: Sunday Church, family, and rest. Monday … Read more