If you saw the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” you know that a sub-plot of the 1998 film involved a big-box bookstore chain driving independent bookstores out of business. Today, a sequel to the film might show a down-on-his-luck Tom Hanks after his bookstore chain is forced out of business by Amazon.com — while Meg Ryan’s multi-location indie bookstores are thriving all over New York City.
Rejecting the conventional wisdom that Amazon.com is the reason for the demise of the independent bookstore, book publishing observer Nate Hoffelder jokes that, “Amazon has killed a negative 70 indie bookstores in the past 9 months,” referring to the growth in membership of the independent bookstore trade group, the American Booksellers Association.
Why are new indie bookstores starting, and existing ones expanding?
According to Hoffelder and other observers, there are certain things an online bookstore can never do, and the demise of the bricks and mortar big box bookstores is making it easier for indies to compete with these advantages.
According to QZ.com, “There is very little difference between big, impersonal chain stores selling books and a big, impersonal website selling books,” writes Leo Mirani on the news website, Quartz. “Independent retailers, on the other hand, have a lot to offer that Amazon cannot: niche coffee, atmosphere, serendipitous discoverability of new titles and authors, recommendations from knowledgable staff, signings and events, to name a few.”