As a self-proclaimed book lover, a bookstore is my haven. Bookworms everywhere love walking down different stacks and gazing at all there is. I do have a preference for some bookstores over others, however. An independent bookstore has more of a genuine feel than a generic big-box store. Add Amazon and all the different digital options on the market, and readers have a multitude of options for where to get their books. How does an independent bookstore compete with these giants?
According to Publishing Perspectives, independent bookstores are actually on the rise: “US book sales across all channels for November were up 7.5 percent over last year with the year-to-date sales up 1.7 percent over 2014.” These statistics are definitely surprising, because it seems that with all the big corporations like Amazon, independent bookstores would be struggling for business. The inner bookworm rejoices.
To answer the previous question of how independent bookstores thrive in the digital age, it mostly lies with community and social media. These bookstores use digital technology to their advantage. In the same article published by Publishing Perspectives, they cite, “Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Bookseller Association, wasn’t surprised that the stories about independent bookstores declining or ‘dying’ were overstated. ‘We are still here because stores play a real role in their community, and tens of times a day they are putting the right book into someone’s hand.'” Community plays a major role in keeping independent bookstores alive. Independent bookstores have to find a way to tap into their communities, grab the residents’ attention, and make their businesses indispensable. Have author events and signings, have a children’s story time, and add some activities to do and then share everything to social media. Find out if your community is more active on Facebook or Instagram and then target that specific social media outlet. Social media is a huge way to reach an audience, and it is a cheap way to stay connected to your community. Have fun events and share them! Also partner with nearby schools and afterschool programs. Have book fairs and special promotions for teachers. The more creative a store gets and the more it utilizes social media, the more beneficial it is for the store and the community. Each independent store should mirror the community it is in. For instance, growing up, I went to an independent store by the beach pretty regularly. The store had special sections devoted to marine life and beach reads for tourists and residents to look at. The store sold little knickknacks like starfish and beach signs and placed those next to a table full of books. They knew their audience and made their store accommodating to them.
Marketing for independent stores is getting savvier. The stores are delving into a community and making themselves into places of fun specifically made for that community. Social media plays a big role in documenting what is going on at stores and reaching as many people as possible. Times are changing, but it looks like everybody still likes a good bookstore.