A post from the Author Enablers
With more than 25 years of experience, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. Together, they are the authors of Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now.  Email them your questions (along with your name and hometown) about writing and publishing, and don’t miss their column on BookPage.com.

We walked into our local Borders recently, lured by the chance to buy holiday gift-wrap at going-out-of-business prices. We were struck by the chaos behind the counter and the glazed look in the employees’ eyes. These folks don’t have fully-functioning computers, and don’t know how long they will have jobs. Everything in their lives is up in the air. The human side of Borders closing is not a pretty sight.

The liquidation of the once mighty Borders bookstores group leads to the question—are brick-and-mortar bookstores soon to go the way of the blacksmith?

There are signs of hope. Borders, once the big, bad wolf eating up all the independent bookstores—and it did succeed in eating up quite a few—is no more. In some communities that means there is an opportunity for the independent bookstores that are still standing, as well as a few new ones.

Of course, e-books and e-retailers are still going strong. Amazon is, as far as we can tell from the outside, a well-run and certainly aggressive company. Currently they dominate both the traditional and the e-book markets. The remaining giant brick and mortar store Barnes and Noble continues to compete in both these spheres, while publishers large and small are moving rapidly toward selling books and e-books directly to consumers.

Who is going to come along and challenge the reigning champ, Amazon? Someone will—but who? And what role is there for brick and mortar bookstores, and especially independent stores?

We’ve noticed one thing about online retailers: they can’t duplicate the experience of meeting your favorite author and getting your book signed. Sitting at your computer watching a streaming event, even if it’s interactive, doesn’t replace the experience of being with other fans, in the presence of a writer whose work you all adore. You get a moment of one-on-one contact, and you get a personalized, autographed memento of the occasion. This is something your neighborhood independent bookstore can provide.

Of course this doesn’t guarantee the future of the independent bookstore. But we have noticed that a well-run, intelligently stocked store in a good location can thrive, even in the Amazon-dominated world of this moment. Independent bookstores can’t compete with giants on the national and world stage—but it does seem they can still compete on a local level by providing a valued service and a community resource.

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