"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Discussion: the Future of the Independent Bookstore

More bookstores within the city of Edmonton are closing their doors for good.  Belgravia Books and Treasures will close the books forever October 31st.  In the words of the proprietors of Belgravia Books and Treasures, theirs is a store of "Rare, recent, and out-of-print books, antiques and curios, framed paintings and prints."  In November 2009, the editors of WHERE magazine took on the task of naming the top 10 bookstores in their respective cities and Belgravia Books and Treasures made the list.  Sadly, we see the doors close on them, accolades and all.  (http://www.globaltvedmonton.com/video/bookstore+closure/video.html?v=2282582654&p=1&s=dd&searchQuery=belgravia%20boo#newshour/video/search/belgravia%20boo)

And another joins the list of soon to close in our city.  The Edmonton Ukrainian Bookstore will close shop in December after 98 years serving the community with Ukrainian language books and gifts.

"This is a store that I grew up in,” said Elena Scharabun, the third generation of her family to own and manage the store.
"My grandfather took it over from the two brothers that started it...and my father and mother took it over from him, and it's been in the family for the whole 98 years."
But in years of late, demand for such items and books has decreased.  
"The world's changing," she said, adding that today's immigrants want to learn English and assimilate into Canadian society, buying different things and decorating their homes differently.
I am sorry to see you go.  You are leaving a fine legacy behind.  I want to thank you, on behalf of all book lovers like myself, who are grateful for you and stores like yours that brought the stories to life in our imaginations as we immersed ourselves in the pages of story-dom. (My Bookshelf)

Currently, Edmonton hosts 10 independent bookstores and 24 chain bookstores.  Calgary has 9 independent bookstores and 24 chains, while Toronto has 45 independent stores and 49 chains.  What is the difference?  Is the metropolitan area of Toronto more conducive to independents or is it that the independents are changing to accommodate the changing market?

Alex Abboud blogs some suggestions for changing the environment of the indie bookstore.  Some ideas include the availability of a drink station within the store, membership fees (a stake in the business), author visits, adjoining conference room rentals, knowledgeable staff, a niche in the market (a specialty) as possibilities.

Even the large chain stores are amending their focus to include gift items and toys.  It is agreed that change must be embraced rather than resisted to maintain a foreseeable future.  If you were an indie bookseller, what changes would you foresee as a marketable asset?

Feel free to join this discussion.  I want to hear from you!


  1. Here's another link re: Belgravia Books and Treasures: http://www.theprovince.com/story.html?id=7268787

  2. I so wanted to get over to Belgravia Books before the final closing, even had an invitation from one of the business partners to do so, but just couldn't make it. Here it is closing day and I sadly note the day on the calendar as the day another local independent bookstore closes its doors for good. Thank you for gracing our city with your presence. Your absence will be felt by all.

    Best of wishes to you!


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