The Next Chapter In The Book Business

For independent booksellers, the key to staying open is differentiation, specialization.

Despite the woes that have befallen his corporate counterparts, independent book seller Jeff McCord believes there are many more unread chapters yet left in the industry.

McCord is owner of in East Atlanta Village and the advent of e-readers and other gadgets that allow people to read books electronically, has bitten into his business in the last couple of years.

But while those changes and others have felled Borders, the national chain which shuttered last year, McCord said independent book stores, because of their size, can really cater to and get to know their customers.

"People come into the store all the time and say, 'I so much enjoy that last book you recommended to me, can you recommend me another book?'" McCord said.

"You get the expertise in a bookstore, you get one-on-one interaction. You get community."

That sort of experience and expertise with customers may explain why independent booksellers did well in the 2011 holiday season, even as more consumers nabbed more e-reader devices.

The American Booksellers Association, the trade group representing independents, said in-store book sales for Thanksgiving week — including Black Friday and Small Business Saturday — rose 15.5 percent from the same week in 2010.

Online sales at those stores' websites also jumped 60 percent for that week, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Booksellers also are being smarter.

A Cappella Books, a Little Five Points staple, is relocating to less expensive space in Inman Park next month.

The bookstore has built a loyal following and is known for its author signings.

"We understand how passionate some, relatively few — but still many, people are about books, and no amount of cultural change will alter that," owner Frank Reiss wrote in he wrote in East Atlanta Patch.

"It is for those passionate people that we have always existed and for whom we will continue to exist...For that, we do not need to be in a retail strip center, paying premium retail rent."

The owners of , a feminist bookstore also located in Little Five Points, have said really focusing on a selection of books that speak to their customers — a niche within a niche — helped them in its 38 years of operation.


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