Book Business Extra Q&A: Meg Zelickson Smith of the American Booksellers Association talks about the impact of a new crop of independent sellers on the book industry.
Contrary to the notion that independently owned booksellers are on the decline, smaller, non-corporate-owned retailers have shown strong growth in the last few years, according to the American Booksellers Association (ABA). The ABA reported 97 new stores that became members of the group last year, more than the 90 members from 2005. The group has about 1,700 company members that represent about 2,400 storefront locations.
Meg Zelickson Smith, director of membership marketing for the ABA, spoke with Book Business Extra about the independent booksellers of today, and how they are affecting the industry.
Book Business Extra: What do you believe is causing people to want to open up independently owned bookstores?
Meg Smith: When you ask the people who have recently opened up stores, they open up stores for all the same reasons that people always have. They love books, they love their community and they want to create that kind of environment in their community. Stores have always closed. We’re now finding that stores are back opening a bit. And the people who are opening them are looking for more resources.
Extra: How many stores opened up last year?
Smith: We had 97 new store members, and 90 the year before.
Extra: What should book publishers take away from this news?
Smith: I think the publishers and the media, and potential booksellers and entrepreneurs should take away that while it’s a very difficult business—we don’t hide that, there’s not huge margins— there are ways to thrive and survive. We’re here to stay. The old story was that ‘You’ve Got Mail’ model, that there’s a small bookstore put out of business by a chain around the corner. The media has been very reluctant to let go of that scenario, which is why we wanted to spread the word that there are new stores. I think its important for the industry as a whole.