U.S. neighborhood bookstores thrive in digital age

Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:05pm EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. independent bookstores are discovering how to flourish despite the growth of electronic books with some even looking to form an alliance with a formidable competitor -- Google.

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, which represents bookstores in the northeast, said its membership has remained steady at about 300 stores over the last decade. Closures have been offset by new stores opening and existing stores have developed new business strategies.

The New York travel bookstore Idlewild offers French and Italian lessons; San Francisco's The Booksmith hosts singles events for book lovers; and Politics and Prose in Washington offers 10 readings each week.

New York Magazine declared "Indie Bookstores Rising" in a recent profile of 13 new or refurbished New York bookstores.

"We often say we're like Mark Twain: that the rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated," said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association (ABA), an industry group for independent bookstores.

The ABA has reached a deal with Google Editions -- Google's digital bookstore, due to launch this fall -- that would allow its 14,000 members to sell Google's eBooks through their websites.

"Google Editions will serve as an e-bookstore, an e-book wholesaler, an e-book discovery platform and an e-book storage system in the cloud," said Jeannie Hornung, spokeswoman for Google Books and News.

"We anticipate Google Editions will be a popular channel for independent bookstores with a web presence," said Hornung, adding that Google expected hundreds of bookstores to sign on.   Continued...

<p>An employee holds books as she poses for photographers in a bookshop in London October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>