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Business rough for past three years, says local bookstore owner

Gary Blair with a favourite book of the season.
December 27, 2012 - 1:04 PM

The economy is affecting some local bookstores more than others. Gary Blair, owner of K&K Bookstore on 31st Avenue, says he doesn't expect to turn a high profit this holiday season, he just hopes he breaks even. Three good days of business would help him do that.

"There are fewer people buying any type (of book) right now," Blair says. Usually, he sells lots of kids books over Christmas, but says the grandparents who typically buy them are watching their wallets.

Blair says book clubs bring him the most business. "For the size of the city, there are a surprising amount of book clubs."

He says the rise of e-books has impacted his business, but that there will always be die-hard print fans. And those fans aren't restricted to the older generations.

"I know teenage girls who won't touch an e-book," Blair says, explaining that some people still long for the touch, feel and smell of a real book.

A recent report by BookNet Canada, which surveyed 1000 book consumers, shows e-books are gaining popularity among Canadians. Print formats still dominate sales, at 86% of purchases. The report says 19% of consumers buy electronic formats, while 7% buy both.

The report also offers insights into where people are buying their books. It's becoming more common for people to buy books online rather than from local stores like K&K. BookNet found that 20% of print book purchases were made online, 32% at non-book retailers (like the pharmacy), and 37% at traditional bookstores.

Between e-books, online shopping, and a teetering economy, small, independent bookstores are suffering major losses. Blair, who has owned K&K for 11 years, trusts that loyal bookworms will continue to frequent his used bookshop, but fears business will never be what it once was.

A block over from K&K on 30th Avenue, Bookland described a different holiday season experience.

"This is my sixth Christmas working here, and business has been the same this year as before," Katie Mackay, a sales associate at Bookland says.

Bookland is owned by Monahan Agency Ltd., a magazine and book wholesale company which also owns and operates two bookstores in Kamloops. No one from the agency was available for comment.

Mackay says she's noticed fewer people coming into the store, but that they tend to buy larger quantities of books than in years past.

"We get lots of people coming in and asking for titles they heard about on CBC radio," she says.

Bookland sells games, cards and calendars in addition to books and magazines, but Mackay doubts the local bookstore will follow in the direction set by Chapters, a massive book retailer that carries a large range of products, including yoga gear and kitchen accessories.

Coles Books, owned by Indigo and located in the Village Green Mall, has welcomed e-books to mingle with its print books. The store was crowded with shoppers a few days before Christmas, but no one was available to comment on how the business was faring this season.

One thing K&K, Bookland, and Coles Books did agree on, was the popularity of Will Ferguson's book 419 which takes a look at the "419" internet scam involving phony emails, usually from people in Nigeria, asking the recipient for money. The title 419 comes from the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud.

As the experience of buying books changes as much as the experience of reading them, consumers face a more complex relationship with the book industry. Their decision is affected by convenience, personal preference, cost, and the desire to support local businesses. 

—Charlotte Helston


News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012
InfoTel News Ltd

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