Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bookstores come and go but books go on and on

     It would seem the perfect business model.
     Your suppliers bring inventory directly to your store, unbidden. It arrives continuously in shopping bags and cardboard boxes. Most sellers don't set prices, but generally accept whatever you decide to pay them. Then you mark up the goods to what you feel the market will bear and sell them.
     Half the time your suppliers hang around while you decide what pittance to offer, then spend the money you just gave them on the marked-up goods that others have previously sold you.
     When I first walked into Half Price Books, I felt a sort of vertigo. The books ... they were so cheap. So very inexpensive. Brand new books, for half of what they cost at regular bookstores, plus shelves and shelves of used books, not at jacked-up antiquarian bookshop prices, but for a few bucks. Sometimes a dollar.
     Now the store in Highland Park is going out of business. A letter posted on the door offers the bright spin:
"The independent bookstore industry has been lucky to see positive growth during the past few years. In fact, Half Price Books has opened two stores in 2018 including our new store in Vernon Hills. However, while things are improving in the book industry world, we as booksellers need to be smart about the business decisions we made."
     That's true. According to the American Booksellers Association, sales at U.S. bookstores are up 5 percent this year. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of independent book outlets rose 35 percent.
     But a rising tide does not lift all boats. Some vessels swamp and sink. The Highland Park Half Price Books closes Sunday, July 8.

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  1. Last week I stumbled on a hole-in-the-wall bookstore right in my hometown, that I had no idea existed. Assuming they're still in business (they were closed at the time, and it was unclear whether that was permanent), I'm going to go back and see if I can buy something.

  2. Neil, there's a Half Price Books very near Harry Caray's in Lombard. I frequent the stores in Naperville, Orland Park, and Countryside -- all within 10 from my house. My favorite used book store is The Frugal Muse in Darien. Good, clean books. Never beat-up or musty. Very good prices.


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