Time pushes us onward

Published 8:41 am Monday, March 28, 2011

Well, the bookstore is closed.

Cleaned out, vacant and lonesome.

Rock-bottom sales prices have liquidated the stock. Fixtures have been sold, shelves removed.

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An empty shell remains of what was once a living, loving and thriving business.

Long-time customers were sad to see us close.

“What are we going to do to get our books?” many of them said. “We have no place to go.”

Their questions were difficult to answer.

We received goodbye hugs and kisses, lots of well wishes and understandings. Some exited the store for the final time with moist eyes.

The Book Nook began in 1996 in the former Harvey’s Supermarket strip center on Shotwell Street. Rob and Ann Gingras opened the doors there in the spot now occupied by Mediacom.

They moved the store several years later almost across from the library on Shotwell Street. We purchased the store at that location in 1999. Next month would have been our 12th anniversary.

We moved the store twice—downtown on the square for eight years, then for the past two years, at five points, in the former Lane’s Pharmacy location.

Our customers always followed.

Business was brisk at that final location, and as we contemplated retirement, we thought that spot would encourage a buyer.

But no one was interested, so with deep regret, we decided to liquidate and close the business.

And now it is done.

Like many local businesses, this final year we saw declining revenues, fewer customers, rising wholesale prices, increasing competition from the Internet and particularly e-books.

The last two years, e-books cut into the book business with a huge bite, big enough to force book giant Borders into bankruptcy.

We noticed that many long-time customers had disappeared. Many times when we encountered them elsewhere in town, we would ask, “Oh, we haven’t seen you in a long time. Do you now have a Kindle? (The electronic e-book from Amazon.com), and the answer was always, ‘Yes.’”

We couldn’t blame them. It was difficult for us to compete with a hard copy best-seller book at $25 retail when someone with a Kindle e-book device could purchase the book on-line for less than $10. In addition, the big guys had those devices strictly to themselves, which effectively locked out small book stores everywhere from being able to market them locally.

Then along would come a huge anticipated book, a Harry Potter edition, for example. It would be a book with a huge following, and great anticipation when it would hit the market, a sure best seller. Sales should be better than brisk.

The big guys would then sell the book as a lost leader. Just when an opportunity would come along for local bookstores to make a buck, the big guys would sell it for less than we could order it wholesale. Like they really needed the business.

So here we are ready for a new chapter in our lives. We thank our customers for their loyalty, thank them for their devotion, thank them for their business, thank them for their friendship.

No other business could have been so lucky.

See you around town, and we’ll continue to see you on this page too.

Jim Smith is a former editor of The Post-Searchlight and former owner of the now closed Book Nook.