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Sunday, July 21, 2019

New Hampshire’s independent bookstores turn a new page | Retail & Tourism - New Hampshire Business Review

Community of readers helps local sellers mount a recovery in the shadow of Amazon by Michael Kitch.

“Every time there is a new innovation, they predict the death of the book,” said Michael Hermann, the owner of Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. “But the book is a perfect technology. Like the shark, it hasn’t changed and continues to thrive.”

In fact, the resilience of the printed book, paired with the business savvy of booksellers, have enabled independent bookstores to weather the storms brought by big-box retailers and the digital revolution and stage a resurgence that has restored and enhanced their place in downtown retailing across the country and the state...

‘A real impact’
Toadstool Books, the largest independent store in the state, first opened in Peterborough in 1972 and moved to the empty A&P in 1992, more than quadrupling its space. Stores in Keene and Milford were added in 1983 and 1989. Owner Willard Williams recalled that his first competitors — B. Dalton’s and Waldenbooks — appeared in the 1980s. Operating in shopping centers and strip malls, he said, both drew customers who otherwise might not enter a bookstore, which for some carried an elitist flavor. “It wasn’t so scary to walk into a bookstore anymore,” he said. “They became more welcoming, more comfortable.”

Williams said competition stiffened when Borders gained a presence in Keene through its acquisition of Waldenbooks in 1987. Unlike the smaller chains, he said that the megastores — Borders and Barnes & Noble — carried a diverse stock akin to that of independent bookstores, but with wider range and greater quantity. “Borders had a real impact,” he said.

However, as the digital revolution gathered pace, the impact of Amazon rattled booksellers large and small.

Source: New Hampshire Business Review