Sales & Spirits Up

During the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute in New Orleans last month, there were high spirits — even before the first cocktail party. From the moment booksellers began arriving in the city that embodies strength and resilience, everyone began comparing notes: 2011 finished with a roar, some stores up as much as 48% in sales over 2010.

Watchung Booksellers

Watchung Booksellers, a successful neighborhood bookstore capitalizes on great service, an amazing inventory, and an inviting atmosphere

After the demise of the Borders chain, many readers sought out local indie bookstores. The American Express Small Business Saturday promotion helped educate cardholders about the value of shopping locally. And, physical books make wonderful gifts, especially when recommended by a savvy bookseller for that hard-to-please relative. All of these factors helped fuel the positive momentum.

During the conference, even more reasons for optimism surfaced. The new Verso Advertising survey indicated that while e-books have gained popularity, about 50% of people have no interest in reading on an electronic device. For avid readers who have adopted e-reading, the survey showed that they plan to purchase the same number of print books as electronic books this year. Books are a part of our material culture and the demand for printed books is not going away.

Publishers were at the convention with heart-felt support. From small presses to large publishing houses, representatives were there to give us the inside scoop on debut authors and exciting new books. It’s the glue that binds us and what gives indie booksellers an incredibly important role in the world of books. Indie booksellers, because of their passionate recommendations – that are not predicated on any computer-generated algorithm – help introduce new authors and break-out works. Without indies, we might only get to see those titles now stacked high on the floor at the warehouse clubs, or be able to sort through the kazillions of e-books online, few of which get much marketing support due to the quality of the writing.

Indie booksellers are now talking of expanding the number of locations, redesigning their current stores, and expanding events. They are changing the complexion of their inventories, spotlighting wonderful books and other fun items that reinforce the community’s character and make it fun to come to the bookstore to shop. It’s been a long haul, but people finally seem to be over the fascination with big box stores. They understand the importance of strengthening local economies, and want to find peace, comfort, and a truly good read from their locally owned bookstore.