December 1, 2013

Local bookstores face digital competition


PLATTSBURGH — Technology may be at the top of some Christmas lists, but local bookstore owners say their customers still like the feel of holding a paper book.

Art Graves, who has owned the Cornerstone Bookshop in Plattsburgh for nearly two years, said there is something special about holding an actual book.

“People come in here and it is a stress reliever for them to browse through the books, glance at the pages and decide on a good read,” he said. “You can see it on their faces that they are happy with what they have found.”


Graves said his store is a little different from a bookstore that sells all new books. The “gently used” books on his shelves become more and more cost effective the more they are read.

“Our book sales are competitive with eBooks,” he said. “It typically takes about three months for our customers to read a book, trade it back in and sell it again. We can reduce the cost each time and that is attractive to our clientele.”

Graves feels that younger generations will appreciate holding a paper book in their hands if they are read to at an early age. Parents bring their children to the bookshop for story-telling time and, while the young ones are entertained, the parent browses for books to take home. 

Bookstores, especially small ones, are up against eBooks, eReaders like Nook and other technology. At The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, Marc Galvin, one of the owners, said the various activities promoted at the store draw people in to see what they have to offer.

“In a bricks-and-mortar building, as opposed to the Internet, you can hold parties, book signings, children’s story hour and become part of the community,” he said. “While we sell book downloads through eReader Kobo on our website, 99.9 percent of what we sell is print books.”

He has observed the eReader technology level off lately and feels readers will still want to hold an actual book in their hands. He said that there is a lot of resistance to eReaders in the “tweens and teens” age group. 

“These are the kids who were read to at an early age and they aren’t ready to switch,” he added.

Diversification helps

In a slightly different market, but nonetheless a book shop, the Almanzo Wilder Farm on Stacy Road in Burke hasn’t been affected too much by the advancement of reading technology. 

“What benefits us is that we are a destination point for most folks,” said Karen Carre, board member and store manager. “Our books sell very well because people visit the farm and get caught up in the ambiance and want to take a bit of it home with them.”

She said that when they hold special events at the farm, their books can sell out, especially to collectors.

“We see parents and grandparents bring their children and grandchildren and get them started reading the Little House series books,” she said. “Also, if someone collects and is missing one, they will buy it here.”

All three bookstores said they diversify, and that helps with sales.

Cornerstone Bookshop fills special orders for customers and also sells new books on local topics like the Adirondacks, hiking, fishing and books by local authors. At the Wilder Farm, books for sale also include those written by Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, and William Anderson, a known authority on the Wilder and Ingalls families.

The Bookstore Plus also offers art supplies, stationary and greeting cards among other products, and eBook downloads on their website,

“Let’s just say we’ve been in business since 1973, we are a second-generation bookstore and eReaders are not putting us out of business,” said Glavin.