Why are Indie Bookstores on the Decline in the UK But Having a Revival in the US?
With the number of indie bookstores in the US growing every year, no one can argue that they are on the rise. B&N may be closing stores left, right, and center, but indies are doing great. That is why I found myself deeply confused when I read this bit on The Bookseller yesterday:
Standing in this beautiful new Foyles store to launch ALLi’s Authors For Bookstores campaign, for a moment we can fool ourselves that reports of the decline of bricks-and-mortar bookshops are greatly exaggerated.
When I first read that I thought we were in for an article about Amazon killing bookstores (the likes of which Salon.com is famous for), but then I realized that the quote came from someone speaking in the UK and referring to bookstores in that country.
While it is true that all the news reports say that the number of bookstores in the UK continue to decline, similar reports from the US say the opposite. In fact, as I noted in February of 2014, the number of indie bookstores in the US rose, while that figure declined in the UK. This trend reportedly continued in 2014, with the count declining from 987 to 939 in the UK.
In the US, however, the American Bookseller Association announced in February that its membership rolls had grown in 2014:
In 2014, the American Booksellers Association welcomed 59 indie bookstores that opened in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is the largest number of new stores joining ABA in a single year since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.
The new stores include nine branches or satellites of existing businesses and five stores selling primarily used books.
The ABA has noted that their membership has grown most years since 2005. That is rather curious, given that the UK Bookseller Association has said that the number of bookstores in the UK peaked in 2005 at 1,535.
Does anyone know why the two English speaking countries continue down such different paths?
I’m not familiar enough with British bookselling to be able to answer this question, but it has me puzzled. I would have thought that the higher population density in the UK would mean that any bookstore would have a greater concentration of customers.
Or is the higher density causing an increase in property values to the point that marginal retail operations like bookstores simply are not profitable?
What do you think?
P.S. And do you know what is even more fascinating? The Us has more indie bookstores while at the same time we also have a thriving online used book market. Yes, indie booksellers can sell online bought the bigger operations have no brick & mortar presence.