Close to home: small bookstores are bringing readers back to their homes

Contrary to what we tend to think, new technologies, such as print-on-demand and online stores, are at the service of bookstores.

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Between 2020 and 2022, small bookstores sprang up, a phenomenon that is linked to mandatory quarantine and the need to access stores close to home. Thus, the visit to the neighborhood bookstore in search of a book or the bookseller’s recommendation was revived.

In many small and medium-sized cities, access to books depends on the initiative of small booksellers. There, their role is of vital importance. They are the ones who go out in search of the books that readers request, but who also bring them books they do not yet know.

In Argentina there is a peculiar city that has the highest number of bookstores per capita: the City of Buenos Aires. There, events such as the Noche de las Librerías (Bookstore Night, in English) stand out, during which stages, authors, publishers, bookstores and readers fill Corrientes Avenue.

During these years, online book sales also escalated, but they lack the personalized and warm treatment of the neighborhood bookseller. “It is true that you can find absolutely everything on the Internet, but you will only find what you know you are going to look for,” reflects Víctor Malumián, co-founder of the book fair for independent publishers. “Small bookstores help you find what you don’t know you’re looking for.”

Richard Charkin, director of Mensch Publishing, observes, “[the current model] tends to exclude many traditional booksellers who rely on relatively high discounts and generous return policies from publishers. There is a balance to be struck between maximum distribution and minimum waste, and we have yet to establish that balance point.”

While space could be a constraint on a small bookstore’s offerings, today they are able to offer their readers a broader catalog than exists physically in the store. “The possibility of accessing an online catalog and requesting copies on demand guarantees the reader’s encounter with his book within 72 hours,” explains Damián Cuello, director of Livriz Sell & Print. “This optimizes space for the bookseller, stock availability and logistics for the publisher.”

Technologies make new practices available and at the same time make it possible to recover others that were longed for.

Categories: Commercialization, Distribution, Popular, Trending

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