From The Editor

by Craig Stark

#96, 4 June 2007

Has the Internet doomed the traditional open shop used bookstore? There's been much debate on this question in recent years as bookstore after bookstore has closed, some of them major enterprises that have thrived for decades. Most recently, The Gotham Book Mart, "a legendary literary oasis that had attracted New York's authors, editors, and readers since 1920" closed its doors, and a whopping 5 floors of books headed to auction.

There's no question that others of the same ilk will follow, but what does this mean? Do these closings suggest that the concept of the open-shop used bookstore is itself no longer viable; or, rather, are new bookstores replacing the Gotham's? Indeed, to a significant degree, new bookstores are appearing, have been almost continuously despite explosive Internet growth over the past few years, though they don't often land in the same neighborhoods or operate with the same business models. Sometimes these models are largely new; sometimes they embrace both old and new; but most importantly, especially to those of you who have dreams of opening your own stores, some of them are succeeding.

If so, exactly how are they succeeding? Well, as you may already know, there isn't much guidance out there. A few books, articles, etc., have been produced on the topic, but most of these either predate Internet bookselling or aren't sufficiently specific to bookstores, let alone comprehensive. This is where Jill Hendrix, owner of Greenville, South Carolina's Fiction Addiction, comes in. Jill opened her bookstore on May 7, 2001, fully six years ago and reached profitability only a year and half later - and hasn't looked back since. She's agreed to write a series of articles for BookThink over the coming months that will detail exactly how, based on her successful experience, she would open that same bookstore if she was doing it today.

Topics will include:

  1. Writing the Business Plan

  2. Naming and Organizing your Business

  3. Store Location & Lease Negotiation

  4. Store Layout

  5. Inventory

  6. Inventory Systems

  7. Store Policies

  8. Bookkeeping and Taxes

  9. Marketing and Publicity

  10. Selling Online

  11. Employees

  12. Sidelines

Jill's first installment, "Writing a Used Bookstore Business Plan, Part I: Your Store Concept," appears today. Look for Part II next week.

Beginning bookseller Brenna Hopkins is back from Beginnersville - and she's spent some real money on inventory! She's also begun her bookselling education in earnest with some serious book scouting. Thanks to those of you who offered advice following her last article. Your letters appear at the end of today's article. And please keep them coming (write me at I'm counting on you guys to keep Brenna headed down the path to success. By the way, until further notice, a free BookThink T-shirt will go out every month to the subscriber who offers her the best piece of advice.

Don’t forget that BookThink is now on MySpace. Beginning this month, new content will be posted regularly, and of course each of you is welcome to contribute. Stop by soon and become a BookThink friend.

Finally, there's a new feature on BookThink – BookThink’s NewsBlog. This blog will feature breaking news items in the bookselling marketplace. It can be accessed here ... or on any BookThink page. You may also subscribe to it and receive news items immediately via an RSS reader.

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