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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Can New Ideas Revive a Dying Bookstore?

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 1:28 PM

The Oregonian reported yesterday that Sellwood's Looking Glass bookstore will close in March unless the owner can find a buyer. Gabe Barber over at Portland Reading Local has a really thoughtful, interesting post up titled "What I Would Do if I Had the Money to Buy Looking Glass Bookstore," outlining his ideas for a viable bookstore business model in the ebook era. A few that stand out:


•Partner with local literary organizations: I would hold exploratory talks with the IPRC to see how our store can help advance their mission of supporting independent producers. Then I would meet with Backfence to see if we could work together on a few invite only, more intimate storytelling events to be held at our store. The Dill Pickle Club, Literary Arts, Wordstock, The Children’s Book Bank, Oregon Humanities, our wonderful library systems, and on and on and on. There is such an incredible amount of literary infrastructure within Portland, and it would take but a few discussions and several pots of coffee (or pints of beer) to come up with creative, exciting, and unique ways to develop win-win relationships with most if not all of them.

•Allow customers to lease small display areas with which to sell their used books: All readers deep down dream about owning a bookstore. To tap into this dream, I would set aside a location within my store that had a wall display divided up into equal size squares. Then I would allow customers to lease these squares to sell their used books, and potentially even new books that I ordered for them.

•Become a broker of literary services: The indie author is on the rise, and as they become more prevalent, they will need access to quality editors, POD services, cover designers, and more. I would use the relationships and brand awareness that the bookstore had developed to be the place where local indie authors could come and find reputable sources for these services. I may even look at purchasing an Espresso Book Machine so that I could be that POD service, while also using it to print off books that other customers were searching for.

I don't think I've ever heard of a bookstore taking the flea-market approach—I wonder how that would go over. He's dead-on about partnering with local literary organizations, though; I like the idea of a bookstore serving as de facto hub for the range of literary activity in town, essentially a physical version of what Portland Reading Local is aiming to do digitally. What do you guys think—should Gabe take it to Kickstarter?

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