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Profiles in Courage: Chats with independent bookstore owners, Part IV

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Q. The economic landscape has changed a bit since you opened your store in 2002. Would you do it again?

A. Oh yes, and I’d make almost all the same decisions. I chose 2007 to take out a large loan and buy out my business partner. Perfect reasoning – until 2008 hit. What we’ve seen is that all the screwups on Wall Street have tightened up credit on Main Street. I’m happy that the local banks have come out of this as well as they have, but they’ve come out of it very very conservatively.

The single thing hurting me most now is lack of credit, because it makes it hard for me to have the books in the store that I need to sell. The second thing hurting me is not e-readers. It’s Amazon, which is a horrible monster and not the publishers’ friend – although publishers haven’t figured that out yet. Amazon is China – in other words, at some point they’re going to turn around to the publishers and say, “You know, we have all your business and we don’t like this discounting and you have to change it.”

They’re 15 percent of the business – at least. To me, that’s a bigger problem than the e-readers. Because e-readers are about who’s buying books where. We’ve always had the struggle of, do you come downtown to buy your books or do you go to the mall and buy your books? Now there’s a third leg: Do you stay home and buy your books from Steve Jobs?

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