Indie bookstores face the best and worst of times


Anonymous Patron writes " Independent bookselling is a business prone to nostalgia it can ill afford. Those booksellers who recognize that location trumps sentiment are the ones opening new places. Ross came to San Francisco; Neal Sofman, a co-owner of A Clean Well Lighted Place, has opened Bookshop West Portal, and Books Inc. will take over the former Clean Well Lighted Place spot in September. Elaine Petrocelli is in negotiations to open a third location of Corte Madera's Book Passage in a Novato development that will include Whole Foods. Chains are not the worst of it"


Vendors that primarily sell to independent bookstores are also affected by the weakening bookstore market. Since I established my business in 2000, about a third of the bookstores I've sold to have gone out of business. Chains will essentially buy merchandise 'on spec'; i.e., they'll return it if it doesn't sell within a month, which is a particularly difficult requirement for what the industry considers a hand-sell, i.e., a little-known book or book-related product. ABA is trying to put a good front on the situation (from 5,000 members in the 90's down to 2,000 members now), but it's bad.

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