E-books Putting the Squeeze on Small Bookstores

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MID-MISSOURI - "eBooks" are becoming more popular than traditional paper-and-ink books. And now small traditional booksellers are starting to feel the effects. Two such bookstores are Nancy's-Trade-A-Book in Jefferson City and the Peace Nook in Columbia. But the proprietors of the establishments are not worried about going out of business. In fact, they're confident they will continue to survive and even thrive in the face of advancing technology.

Nancy Heidbreder has owned Nancy's Trade-A-Book, a new-and-used bookstore in Jefferson City for 24 years. She feels that eBooks are affecting bookstores, but she attributes the loss of business primarily to the economy.

"The eBooks are affecting some as well as the economy. The economy is making a big difference in the fact that people that are on a fixed income with groceries and gas, etc. going up so that I think that actually more than the eBooks", Heidbreder said.

Heidbreder says that she stays in business because she has a loyal cadre of traditional book lovers who tend to be older than eBook buyers. "They've read books all their life. They like the smell of them, they like the feel of them", said Heidbreder.

Mark Haim, director of Peaceworks, an educational non-profit operation that operates the non-profit bookstore Peace Nook, also says that eBooks are making an impact on his store but that he isn't ready to close up shop. "I'm optimistic that eBooks are not threatening our survival. They're certainly making us rethink a little bit how we configure ourselves and what else we stock, but I don't see us going out of operation or giving up on selling books anytime soon", Haim said.
He attributes to this to Peace Nook, in addition to being a bookstore and maintaining a base of loyal readers, also functioning as a resource center, a fair-trade imports store, a natural foods store and a message products store.

"We'll sell more, perhaps, fair-trade imports, which is a big area of interest amongst our clientele. We'll continue to sell lots of message products like buttons, bumper stickers, posters, T-shirts, other products that get messages out and we'll sell natural products. We're a multi-faceted operation", said Haim.

Despite these strategies, eBooks continue to increase in popularity and sales. According to a June article on Mashable.com, in 2011's first quarter adult paperback sales totaled $335 million. In the same period this year, adult paperback sales totaled $229.8 million, a loss of 10.5 percent. Compare that with an increase of 28.1 percent for eBooks in the same stretch of time, with them bringing in $220.4 million in 2011 and $282.3 million in 2012. Paperback sales are still number one, but eBooks appear to be fast catching up.

Still, Nancy Heidbreder thinks that it will take at least 20 years for eBooks to completely eclipse traditional books. And even then, it won't mean anything bad for her. "It's not going to be an overnight thing. They are going into the schools and that type of thing, which is going to make a difference. Won't make a difference in our bookstore but that's just putting more young people in contact with traditional books", she said.

Nancy's Trade-A-Book is located at 2219 Missouri Boulevard in Jefferson City. The Peace Nook is located at 804 East Broadway in Columbia.

To read the Mashable.com article concerning eBook sales, click here.