Thursday, November 16, 2006

One More Thing

On Wednesday, Shelf Awareness referred to a story that appeared in the Napa Valley Register the previous day. The story comes at a great time--while we're talking about what brick and mortar bookstores can do to adapt to the new world in which they find themselves.

An independent bookstore called Bookends in downtown Napa decided to begin selling used books alongside the new books. The used books (hardback and trade paper only) are mixed in with their newer cousins. A white sticker saying "used" on the spine alerts the customer to the book's status.

"'It’s easier to take a chance on a new book or a new author when it’s a lower price,'" Barbara Heppe, the manager of the store said at the end of a year into the experiment. She estimated that the store sells about a hundred used books a month.

“'Current popular fiction definitely goes the fastest,' said Heppe, citing 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd as one example."

The store accepts used books in good condition and will offer 20% of the book's original value in cash or 30% in store credit. Ms. Heppe says that about half her customers choose cash while the other half choose the store credit, which remains on the store's records indefinitely.

A comment by Heppe reflects a practical attitude in her willingness to adapt to the realities of the new market: “'This is just one more thing we can do that people have been looking for . . . That’s how independent bookstores stay in business — by providing the best customer service they can.'”

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