Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/7/2010 (3491 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the months leading up to its closure, customers would visit John Kress' independent bookstore in Regina to sift through the thousands of titles, check out the cover art, read the synopses, and find books they wanted to read.
Then they would leave empty handed, save for a few notes.
"They come in with pads and pens and write titles down. One says, 'Oh, I'll buy this one when I get home online,'" Kress said in a recent interview as he wound down operations at the Book and Brier Patch.
Kress is far from alone — a rash of independent bookstore closings in recent months and years have been reported across the country.
After 33 years in the business, Kress said his beloved shop had transformed into a "showroom" amid growing pressure from big chains such as Indigo Books and Music, online retailers and now, ebooks and digital readers.
"We're just seeing the tip of the digital explosion right now," said Mark Lefebvre, president of the Canadian Booksellers Association and book operations manager of McMaster University's Titles bookstore.
"The key is leveraging yourself to become relevant in that, so you're part of that as opposed to not part of it at all."
Lefebvre said it's become increasingly obvious to him that booksellers need to satisfy consumers by offering books in a variety of formats.
Titles, which is open to students and the public in Hamilton, was one of the first bookstores in Canada to pony up the cash for an Espresso Book Machine, which cost about $100,000. Instead of a steaming, frothy jolt of caffeine, this machine serves up a fully bound, high-quality paperback on demand, in mere minutes.
It allows smaller stores to offer a larger selection of books than would otherwise fit on their shelves. Lefebvre said there are only a handful of the machines across Canada.
While big chains might be able to come up with the cash for similar technology more easily than independent shops, Lefebvre said smaller businesses have fewer hoops to jump through.
"Our greatest strength is our independence and our ability to move quickly," said Lefebvre, noting that the first three stores in Canada to own the Espresso Book Machine were independents.
Longtime customers of the Bookmark are growing older, said Jones, while younger, electronically adept readers are abandoning paper books in favour of e-readers.
"The generation which made bookselling so great is getting older," said Jones, whose Charlottetown location sells art supplies and stationary to supplement its book selection.
Still, Jones predicts there will always be room for traditional bookstores, including the Bookmark, with knowledgeable staff and a good, well-chosen selection. He's not interested in selling ebooks.
"As long as it makes money, we'll keep (the Bookmark)," he said. "And when it doesn't, I guess we won't. But so far, I can't really complain."
In Vancouver, Ria Bleumer is preparing for the grand opening of Sitka Books and Art in the coming weeks.
Her decision to open a bookstore may surprise some. Bleumer worked at Vancouver fixture Duthie Books for 16 years before the shop, struggling with skyrocketing rent, closed its doors earlier this year.
The new store will open just two blocks away. Bleumer said she's not threatened by big chains or ebook readers and for now, plans only to sell traditional books at Sitka.
"I know that books will never go away. And if I didn't believe that very strongly, I would not be opening a bookstore."
Still, she admits it's hard to guess what the industry will look like five years from now.
Kress recalls when Chapters first opened in Regina. Business was so slow at the Book and Brier Patch during the chain's first week that Kress asked his staff whether the phones were even working. Many customers — but not all — came back.
But Kress said he's not sad about the store's closure. The Book and Brier Patch had a good run.
He said he's intrigued by the technological changes in the industry he's devoted more than three decades to. He predicts the Espresso Book Machine will be as commonplace as ATMs in the not-so-distant future.
"It's amazing," he said. "It's like we're going from the horse-and-buggy days now to the automobile."