Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trends, Counter-Trends, and Re-Evaluations

At the PowerUp! ceremony last night, I mentioned the headline of the (otherwise lovely) New York Times article on my bookstore party, which read "A Woman Dreams of Opening a Bookstore, and Defying the Trends." I asserted that the existence of the 75 stellar business plans in this year's competition suggest that my efforts to open an indie bookstore actually embody any number of trends: toward localism, toward idealistic entrepreneurship, toward communities taking charge of their own sustainability, toward valuing books, toward the growth of vibrant, savvy independent businesses.

Thus, it was rather gratifying to read in book industry newsletter Shelf Awareness today that two major papers have been revisiting the common perception of the trends.

The Wall Street Journal article "Folks Are Flocking to the Library, a Cozy Place to Look for a Job" begins

"A few years ago, public libraries were being written off as goners. The Internet had made them irrelevant, the argument went. But libraries across the country are reporting jumps in attendance of as much as 65% over the past year..."

Business librarian Maud Andrews and I discussed this issue at the reception last night: that bookstores and libraries have certainly had to revamp their business model, to become gathering places for the sharing of information rather than warehouses of information on paper. But it's working, for both of us.

The San Francisco Chronicle's piece "Bay Area indie bookstores beat the odds" (deja vu to the Times article) begins thusly:

"As everyone knows, independent bookstores are dead. Or at least dying. Next to opening an indie video rental store, it is hard to imagine a less promising investment opportunity.....

Defying conventional wisdom, and despite what you hear every time a landmark bookstore closes - Stacey's on Market Street is the latest example - independent bookstores are thriving in San Francisco."

The article details the passion and smarts of Preveen Madan and Christin Evans, who bought the small indie store Booksmith and are succeeding in their goal to "push the boundaries of a bookstore for the 21st century," along with Pete Mulvihill, one of the three partners that runs Green Apple Books, who talks about indie bookstores curatorial role.

It feels serendipitous to hear these stories that question the negative "trends" by really observing the successes and changes that are occurring in the world of books, after going out on a limb to assert that the trends are not as they are often assumed to be. Given the wonderful plans I saw last night, and the passion and energy evident in the entrepreneurs, the future is not so bleak as it might have appeared.

(cross-posted on A Bookstore In Brooklyn)