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Despite the Era of Amazon.com, Indie Book Shops Rise Again

'We need intimate, small places like this that care about the books they pick'

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Photo: Curtis Cron / Flickr / Creative Commons)Even in the era of Amazon.com and the e-book, which have forced giant book-selling retail stores such as Borders to shutter their doors, underdog booksellers and local independent bookstores who offer a more nuanced approach to book sales are actually on the rise, the Washington Post reports Sunday.

“We are a lot like Mark Twain: The rumors of our death are a little bit exaggerated,” said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores. “We have been counted out for a very long time.”

According to the ABA, its membership has grown 6.4 percent in 2013, following an increase in independent book sales by 8 percent in 2012, which maintained that pace throughout the following year.

More and more independent bookstores are popping up across the U.S., thriving by providing hand-selected and unique reads, not to mention the physical experience of holding a good book that many readers say cannot be replaced by electronic devices.

As The Washington Post reports:

Nationally, while there are still indie bookstores shutting their doors, unable to hold on against the tough head winds, there are more stores opening than closing. Word, the popular Brooklyn indie, just opened a new branch at an old Burger King in Jersey City. Bookbug, in Kalamazoo, Mich., has doubled its size. Novelist Ann Patchett opened a store in Nashville. There are new openings in St. Louis, in Durham, N.C., and beyond. [...]

It is also the charming atmosphere as well as the physicality of the book-shopping experience that many shoppers say cannot be replaced by online shopping.

“We need intimate, small places like this that care about the books they pick,” said Lisa Solomon, a shopper at Frederick, Maryland's Curious Iguana bookstore, told the Washington Post. “This isn’t just a bookstore. It’s more than that.”

The Washington Post continues:

Twenty-five years ago, independents were supposed to vanish when Waldenbooks showed up in malls. They were supposed to vanish when Borders and Barnes & Noble came along with endless selection and comfy chairs. They were supposed to vanish when Costco started selling the latest Doris Kearns Goodwin. They were supposed to vanish when Amazon perfected low prices and fast shipments — not just for books but even for rowboats, meaning nobody would ever have to leave the house again to shop.

“I think what we’re seeing is that the inevitable death of any kind of physical retailing was a gross exaggeration,” Laura J. Miller, a Brandeis sociology professor and author of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption, told the Washington Post. “There are a lot of reasons people like going to bricks-and-mortar stores, especially to bookstores that are offering something more than just a convenient shopping experience.”

While digital books sales remain high, according to the Codex Group, which regularly surveys readers, more and more people are pairing digital reading with store bought, traditionally-bound books. Roughly 64 percent of those polled in the U.S. pair both print and digital reading equally.

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