Independent bookstores are, surprisingly, thriving. For the sixth year in a row the American Booksellers Association reported that its membership increased. There are more than 1,700 members now, compared to 1,401 back in 2009.
Sarah Bagby, the owner of Watermark Books in Wichita and an ABA board member, was in New York for the ABA convention last week and said there are three main reasons independent bookstores are starting to come back, from a high of more than 5,000 members in 1990.
▪ The buy local movement: “People want their local businesses and know that they need to support them,” Bagby said.
▪ Deals with big publishers: The ABA has negotiated on behalf of local booksellers to get better financial terms with the dominant publishers, according to Bagby.
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▪ The physical book: “There’s no question that online sales are a big portion of the market,” Bagby said. “But most people who purchase e-books purchase physical books too.”
In addition, locally, she said publishers have sent authors who are popular locally to visit the store. For instance, after “We Are Called to Rise” sold hundreds of hardbacks locally, Simon & Schuster sent the author Laura McBride to Wichita to promote the release of the paperback.
The independent bookstores have been promoting 10 new authors, such as McBride, twice a year to try to break through the deluge of books published every year. This has created new opportunities for books such as “The UnAmericans,” which went on to win a PEN award and be nominated for a National Book Award.