Saving a Bookstore: it has come to this
- by Bruce E. McKinney
If you want a bookstore in your neighborhood you may have to donate
Browser Books at Fillmore and Sacramento in San Francisco has been in business since 1976. In other words, its forty-two-year corporate life spans the period from the last decade of pre-Internet to the full-on electronic embrace we experience today. For individuals, today’s connectivity, depth and speed permit would-be buyers to micro-manage their purchases and that often means walking into a bookstore and then purchasing online. For the local bookstore, they still see most of the traffic but the margins are thinner and the sales fewer. Ouch!
Consumers, myself included, expect to pay a ‘fair’ price but that assumes all sellers have the same costs and the principal variable is margin. Of course, they also have different costs. Bigger retailers can work on lower margins and often do. Smaller retailers need more margin because they often provide both books and convenience. It turns out, however, that what some book buyers want is to first see the material after which they buy online. I’ve done it myself because the difference in price and the lack of a sales tax make the online purchase much less expensive. When this happens enough the convenience of the local book store is threatened.
Browser Books has an answer and it’s to support them directly through a gofundme campaign at www.gofundme.com. No purchases are necessary. You can simply give money to keep them going. So far, 438 people have given them $71,001 toward their goal of $75,000. They’ll probably reach their goal this time but expect there will be future campaigns because you’ll be staunching the loss but not fixing the problem.
So I figure I probably owe them $150 in profits they would have made if I had always bought from them the books I first saw there. In a few minutes, I’ll add to their fundraising total and hope to feel I can occasionally, without guilt, now go back to their shop to find, if not to buy, books I see, something I stopped doing years ago because it felt wrong.
I want them to be nearby and I’m willing to contribute to support their efforts.