How Independent Bookstores Stack Up In The Age Of Amazon

Feb 12, 2020

A few decades ago, it seemed the days of independent bookstores were numbered. First came Barnes & Noble chain to crush the mom-and-pop shops. Then in 1995, Amazon's arrival led to a significant decrease in the number of independent bookstores. When Amazon launched the Kindle e-reader in 2007, it seemed likely it would deal the final blow. But the unexpected happened.

The number of independent bookstores reached an historic high in 1995. While those numbers took a dip in, there has been an increase in the number of independent bookstores over the past 10 years, according to the American Booksellers Association. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is struggling to survive the Amazon-driven retail apocalypse.

In October, a new bookstore opened in the Northside community of Cincinnati. Downbound Books specializes in small press fiction. Owner Gregory Kornbluh has experience in sales and marketing at Harvard University Press. Downbound Books joins a community of independent Cincinnati retailers that include Blue Manatee in Oakley.

In 2019, the then-owners of Blue Manatee announced they would have to close the beloved children's bookstore if new owners were not found. Kevin Kushman stepped forward with a proposal to transform the bookstore into a nonprofit promoting literacy. Over the summer, the store reopened as the Blue Manatee Literacy Project under the new leadership of Kushman and Amanda Kranias. 

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss how the market is changing for independent bookstores are Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ryan Raffaelli, Ph.D.; Blue Manatee Literacy Project Executive Director and Co-founder Amanda Kranias; and Downbound Books Owner Gregory Kornbluh.

Listen to Cincinnati Edition live at noon M-F. Audio for this segment will be uploaded after 4 p.m. ET.

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