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Are Brick & Mortar Bookstores Dying?

The Riddle Report 04 2 2021

It has been evident for a long time that brick and mortar bookstores were declining and the culprit has been the Internet. However, despite media coverage suggesting that bookstores were dying, a resurgence started several years ago. Covid-19, also known as the Chinese Virus (it started in China), has had a crushing impact on almost all industries. But the bookstore industry seems to be coping and is ready to continue its comeback.

News Item #1 Overview

There is a long history of bookstores dating back hundreds of years. They were the primary, and sometimes only, venue for selling and buying books. When I started my writing career in 2003, bookstores were still the primary place to sell your books. And it was in bookstores that I conducted book signings.

At that time, it was getting more difficult primarily because the superstores dominated and could be picky about the books.

Sometime after that the brick & mortar stores began declining as the internet was growing and people found they could shop from home. Thus, began a deep decline that saw chains that once dominated going out of business. Borders, one of the largest superstore chains, eventually closed its doors. But others continued.

News Item #2 Decline

As mentioned above bookstores, and we are talking primarily of brick & mortar bookstores, went into decline. Here is Port Charlotte, Florida I understand that there were bookstores, including at least one Christian bookstore.

Shortly after arriving here in 2008 we discovered that the Christian store was gone, and the only general bookstore was Books-a-Million. That hasn’t changed much. A Christian bookstore did open up and operate for several years, but it too went out of business. Books-a-Million is still here.

Why?

Part of the reason is that the new Christian Bookstore only had a minimal presence on the internet. Basically, a single page providing directions and when open. I also suspect that the manager of the store underestimated the competition that the internet was bringing. I talked to him and he was quite confident, yet his confidence seemed to me to ignore or not be aware of the purchasing power, not to mention low overhead, of internet stores.

News Item #3 Comeback

We currently have two bookstores in Punta Gorda, Florida, which is right across the Peace River. Both are Independent and have an online presence that compliments the physical store. In addition, I know Copperfish makes use of emails, virtual events, and Zoom to list just a few innovations. And I believe all Indie Bookstores have similar methods of outreach.

The comeback of bookstores in general and Indie’s in particular began in 2016 or shortly after. That was the year that Family Christian went bankrupt and disappeared. But the vaunted age of eBooks didn’t happen quite the way anticipated. Yes, eBooks sell well, but they did not replace print books which still sell well.

And the bookstores, particularly Indie bookstores that included Church bookstores, learned to survive and thrive!

News Item #4 In The Year 2021

The year is still young, but bookstores are doing well. Indie bookstores have invested time, money, and energy in coping with the restrictions from the Chinese Virus. As a result, they are ready to continue the comeback. Locally, I have seen at least one bookstore expand its virtual offerings while moving to a new brick & mortar storefront.

Scanning the internet for information on bookstores I found optimism. And that speaks well of the industry.

News Item #4s What About the Internet

The internet is well and doing fine. Just as there are millions of people wanting to hold a book in their hand before buying, there are also millions of people willing to buy a book from the comfort of their homes. The internet and brick & mortar bookstores can coexist and, in some cases, have a foot in both segments.

Here at T&R Independent Bookstore and Services, we are looking forward to opening are own bookstore, TR Bookstore. It will be exclusively on the internet and, at least in the beginning, sell only our books. This will allow our books to be sold both at Amazon and at our bookstore, where they will be discounted.

So, in conclusion, I believe it is way too early to mourn the bookstores whether brick & mortar or internet. And neither should we mourn the eBook or the Print book. Both are doing fine!

So, if you are looking for a fine book to read go to your local bookstore or your internet bookstore (which when you think about it are also local).

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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. He is also an author of Historical, Speculative, and Mystery fiction, plus co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books. To reply to any blog you can comment on a blog and/or send an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. His Facebook page is at RFrederickRiddlesWorld and his Parler page is authorriddle.