A Thought on the Local Bookshop(pe)

This past week Greenwoods Bookshoppe on Whyte Ave in Edmonton, AB  officially closed its doors, prompted by the passing of her brother (and business partner) earlier this year, said the owner.

Before confirmed, social media rumours spread of Greenwoods’ imminent closure—the reason then thought as being that of many locally-owned book stores across the country: they just weren’t sellin’ enough books.

What prompted a lot of thought for me was a string of comments attached to a Facebook post before the closure was confirmed. One brave soul, while sad that the shop was (likely) closing, admitted that (s)he had never really shopped there. A few others followed with similar confessions. I had also never been in the shop.

What does that mean, then? To me, it says that as a population of book lovers and book buyers, our needs and wants as customers aren’t being met by the local bookstores anymore.

Gasp! An unpopular and nearly blasphemous opinion, maybe. But if a business isn’t making money, it’s because something isn’t working, bottom-line. And I think it’s unreasonable to put the onus on the book-buying public to support a business merely out of nostalgia and loyalty.

Local bookstores provide spaces for local authors, many say. And while this is true, it is not the only space. Technology is and will continue making it easier to get books out, regardless of how big or small the author or publisher, without the aid of the middle-shop.

What if the publishers became their own distributors and online stores, eventually? I don’t know the workings on the backend well enough to really be able to offer insight as to how this would work, exactly. Ask me after I complete the Creative Book Publishing program at Humber next summer. But what then, if that does happen? All local bookshops should just cash-in and roll-out?

Nah. Definitely not what I’m saying. I think local bookshops need to shift the business from being that of providing a book, to that of providing a feeling. It’s out of loyalty and nostalgia that people feel sadness for a bookshop’s closing (regardless of how many or few times each of those people walked through the door). Those feelings, among others like the feeling of discovery and the feeling of community, are what bookstores can provide that an online shop cannot. Capitalizing on these feelings will bring people into the shops, and once there, people will buy books.

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