The American Bookseller Association and its UK counterpart have each released new details this week on their membership rolls, and they have revealed that this is both the best of times and the worst of times for booksellers.
The ABA reported last week that nearly four dozen new bookstores opened in the US, while the UK-based Bookseller's Association reported that almost the exact opposite happened in the UK.
According to Bookselling this Week:
The American Booksellers Association welcomed 44 indie bookstores that opened for business in 2013 in 20 states. Among them were six branches of existing businesses. California was home to 10 new stores; Michigan and New York, four; Pennsylvania and North Carolina, three; and Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington State, two.
In another sign of the vitality of independent bookselling, last year 14 established ABA member stores were bought by new owners.
This is great news, especially when you consider the long running lament that Amazon is slaying bookstores left and right.
Unfortunately, the good news doesn't extend across the pond. According to my source, the Bookseller's Association has reported that the number of independent bookstores in the UK dropped below 1,000 last year. A total of 67 indie bookstores in the UK closed in 2013, while 26 opened. This leaves a deficit of 41 empty, dust-collecting ex-bookstores.
There are now only 987 indie bookstores in the UK, down from 1,028 in February 2013. In fact, the number of bookstores in the UK is down from its peak of 1,535 in 2005, meaning that a third of the UK's indie bookstores closed in the last 9 years.
That's a marked difference from here in the US, where the ABA reports that their membership bottomed out in 2005 and started increasing again, with new records being set each year as indie bookstores saw a resurgence.
It's not clear why indies are doing so much better in the US, but if I had to guess I would blame the decline of Borders and the other big box bookstore chains. Each shuttered big box bookstore is another hole in the book market for indies to to go after.
On the other hand, that is a terribly simplistic explanation which doesn't account for Borders closing hundreds and hundreds of stores in 2011 without causing a similar spike in the number of indie bookstores launched.
Why do you think indie bookstores are doing so well in one English speaking country but not the other?