How Bookstores Can Survive in a Post-Borders World

By Jason Boog Comment

Is the Borders’ liquidation the beginning of the end for independent booksellers? The American Booksellers Association (ABA) doesn’t think so.

The ABA released this statement: “It is jolting news for any community when a bookstore closes, and independent booksellers are saddened to hear that almost 11,000 Borders employees will be losing their jobs. However, we do not believe that the Borders closing is a bellwether for the future of bricks-and-mortar bookstores nationwide. Rather, it is, in part, an unfortunate right-sizing of a bookstore landscape that has suffered from overexpansion in certain markets.”

What do you think? The ABA also compiled a link-filled collection of resources for independent bookstores, offering practical and successful ideas for surviving this difficult time for bookstores. We’ve collected our favorite suggestions below, adding some tips from GalleyCat features as well.

1. Hold community discussions at your bookstore. Here’s more from the ABA: “Several bookstores, including R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut; Diesel, A Bookstore in Oakland, California; and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, have held community discussions about the recent and dramatic changes in the book industry, including the Borders closings and the growing popularity of e-books.”

2. Team up with other bookstores for media campaigns. The ABA kit explained: “the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) placed a half-page ad representing association bookstores in the San Francisco Chronicle with the reminder to consumers that “We’re Still Here.” The ad reached one million readers, said Hut Landon, NCIBA executive director, and the response was ‘unbelievable’ … in Missouri, Left Bank Books, Pudd’nhead Books, Subterranean Books, Main Street Books, and The Book House formed the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance to help raise awareness of their stores and their unique contributions to their local communities. They sent out press releases, created a website, and a Facebook page.”

3. Use QR Codes and Google eBooks so your customers can purchase digital books through your store.

4. Host technology petting zoos to introduce your customers to the idea of buying digital books through your store.

5. Reach out to Borders customers with special offers. Here’s more from the ABA: “Washington, D.C.’s Politics and Prose extended a “special, limited-time opportunity to booklovers in our area in the hope that they might discover a new home with us.” Borders customers were invited to exchange their Borders Rewards card, for a three-month P&P membership, which entitled them to discounts on bestsellers, author event titles, and the March Storewide Member sale.”

6. Check out our Survival Secrets for Independent Bookstores feature for more tips from other booksellers.