My daughter forwarded me this plea from Food For Thought Books in Amherst, MA. They are struggling, as so many independent bookstores are these days, to stay open. They have turned to crowdsourcing to come up with the funds they need to tide themselves over the gap they foresee as they reduce the footprint and try to forge a future as a smaller store. See Food for Thought CrowdSource. Food for Thought has been more than a simple bookstore for 38 years. Located in the Pioneer Valley, it has served as a center for the social justice and progressive communities, and a safe space for the gay, lesbian, queer and transexual community, and for radical thinkers.
* The Indiegogo website that Food for Thought Books was using to raise money seems to hve gone away. I am trying to find out if (I hope!) that means they met their goal and shut down the fundraiser. I'll let folks know if I can figure out what it means. (11/30/13). Their Facebook page as of 11/27 says: "It's 5pm and we've raised $11,427! Think we can reach $12,000 by tomorrow??" (the ultimate goal is $38,000) So I think the Indigogo page is just temporarily broken. If you are trying to reach it to make a donation, please try back later!
While there have been several articles (Economist, Smart Planet, NY Times, and Christian Science Monitor) recently noting numbers showing overall growth in independent bookstores, my personal experience is that most of my local independent booksellers have closed up. That includes, of course, the chain stores that these articles are dissing. The edge of small, independent booksellers, according to all three of the articles I link above is that they can get to know their customers and form personal bonds with them. That certainly seems to shine through in the announcement for Food for Thought, above.
The Christian Science Monitor, as usual, analyzes the issues in much more detail, and it's an interesting read. They point to a variety of influences in the recent resurgence of small, independent bookstores:
1. The closing of Borders - many of the erstwhile brick-and-mortar customers of this large chain have wandered into small independent bookstores and found a new bookseller.
2. "Buy local" isn't just for veggies any more.
3. Social media has enabled small independents to reach a larger audience with a lower overhead.
4. Newer bookstore owners are coming in with a business-savvy attitude.
5. Younger owners.
6. Community events, and more creativity in developing community events. Some even run summer camps in their bookstores.
7. Enough bookstores have closed, the market is stabilizing. Maybe.
8. Diversified revenue streams; some bookstores do more than just sell new books. Some publish, some sell second-hand as well as new, some sell alternative and niche titles and paraphernalia.
9. Beyond the coffee shop: Some are adding wine bars, cheeses, summer sausages, olives, jams and locally made breads, specialty coffees, Italian sodas, cakes and chocolate.