Independent vs. Chain Bookstores

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Maria Fitzsimons is hardly visible. She is flipping furiously through an issue of Entertainment Weekly searching for an article on the latest pop princess, her head practically in the magazine that is almost dipping into her overflowing glass of diet coke.

She is sitting comfortably by the bar at Trident Bookstore located on 338 Newbury St. As her pile of books and magazines grows so does her apprehension.

“I wish this place didn’t close so early, there are hardly any fully stocked bookstore cafes in Boston,” says Fitzsimons. “I love that you could read all you want drink coffee and still have the magazines to browse through.” Trident is open daily from 9 a.m. to midnight.

Fitzsimons’ search for a bookstore to accommodate her needs is nothing new. The recent closing of the Spencer’s Mystery Bookstore on Newbury Street, is a ringing reminder of the sad reality of most small bookstores. They are in competition to stay alive against the giants of book selling such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

Exploring Boston’s most youth-based neighborhoods, books are sold everyhere -- from the Virgin Megastore to Urban Outfitters. But bookstores that cater to the reader and make them feel at home is hardly a business that is profiting. Visiting bookstores all over the local Boston area made one thing apparent, local book retailers don’t just sell books anymore, they sell art, food, and the business itself.

Before jumping into the nitty gritty of how these small bookstores stay open, we have to look at why they are having a problem. It is recognized by readers all over the world for its green lettered logo and very extensive stock of, well, books. You guessed it, Barnes & Noble.

Barnes and Noble is the competition to beat. Barnes & Noble, Inc. is the #1 bookseller in the United States with no surprises involved. According to Hoovers.com, Barnes & Noble operates 690 stores in 49 states under names such as Barnes & Noble, Bookstop and Bookstar. It also operates 260 mall stores using the name B. Dalton, Doubleday and Scribners. If that is not enough to understand why bookstores are closing; there is more.

B&R has a video game chain under its belt. Gamestar a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble and is the #1 U.S. video game retailer. There is also a little company -- BarnesandNoble.com. Barnes & Noble, Inc. now owns 75% of the web site and plans to buy the rest of the shares and take the company totally private.

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