Broadway Books State of the Union

April 2011

We live in interesting times. It’s an understatement to say that the world is in a state of flux. Some changes are scary to contemplate, and others give us hope for the future. It’s also fair to say that we have mixed feelings about many of these changes.

Our little corner of the world (that is, publishing and bookselling and reading in general) is changing so fast that we all struggle to keep up. And because so many of you have asked us how these changes are affecting our business, we’d like to keep you up to date.

First, to all of you who ask and to all of you who are afraid to ask, we say thank you. Really, from the bottom of our hearts.  Your concern for our continued existence means more to us than we can possibly say. It’s because of your concern and support that we’re still here.
It’s been a bumpy few months. Recently, many good friends have fallen by the wayside (fellow indie bookstores, publishers’ sales reps, and others). We’ve also lost a few old competitors (some of the biggest box stores have closed). Here at the store, we had a great December (thank you!), but since then sales have been lackluster. We’re keeping within shouting distance of last year because of several out-of-store gigs at which we’ve been asked to sell books.  But overall, since December, our in-store sales have been down.  

In large part, we attribute this phenomenon to the advent of the e-reader. We know that thousands (millions?) of people received e-readers as holiday gifts, and the existence of e-books is taking a toll on the sale of print books everywhere.
Can we weather this change?  Yes, with your help.

Here are ten things that we’re doing:

1. We are going to sell e-books. We have just signed up for a new website through our trade organization, the American Booksellers Association. It will take about three months to get up and running, but when it’s ready you will be able to purchase e-books for virtually every e-reader except the Kindle, which remains a proprietary product. Our prices for e-books will be competitive with the big box stores and online retailers.

2. Our new website will also enable you to buy books from us 24/7, no matter where you are. You can arrange to pick your books up at the store (please – we love seeing you!), or you can have them shipped to wherever you want. You will be able to shop for books from our inventory or special order, easily and at your convenience.

3. As we embrace all this new technology, we want to emphasize that we remain big fans of ink on paper.  We love the physical fact of books as well as the ideas they contain, and we are resolved to do what we can to keep real books in our lives. They are the bricks and mortar that keep us together.

4. We are expanding our schedule of readings and other events in the store. These events are your chance to discover new talent as well as bask in the glow of established writers. They’re a time to gather with other booklovers and schmooze in person about what matters to all of us: words and ideas and how they fit together. These events are always free, and the experience of attending one cannot be replicated by any computer.

5. We continue to support our local schools and literary entities by hosting student readings, book club gatherings, and other events such as our annual school library fundraiser (last year’s beneficiary, St. Andrew Nativity School, was given almost $1000 for library and classroom books).  We also donate hundreds of dollars in gift certificates and books each year for local schools and other fundraisers.

6. We make a point of supporting local authors by taking their books on consignment and actually paying them when the books sell. We also actively support creative local publishers such as Hawthorne Books and Oregon State University Press, whose titles provide us with inspiration and insight every single day.

7. As always, we employ people who are passionate and knowledgeable about what we sell. Our staff works hard to be the very best booksellers in town, helping you to find just the right books for you or as gifts.  

8. And speaking of “in town,” we all live here. That might seem obvious, but think about it: independent bookstores return 40% more money to their local communities than the chains, and 99% more money to their local economy than national online competitors.

9. We are continually refining our inventory mix (new, used, and sale books) to be a more accurate reflection of what our customers want.  Books that don’t sell after their fair time on the shelf get returned to the publishers so that we can bring in newer titles. This constant motion keeps our stock fresh and eclectic. And because we’re small and must edit our selection, you can always trust us to carry only titles of the highest quality. Of course, this last bit is a matter of opinion.  But we’re of the opinion that opinions are good things – both yours and ours. And let’s agree to disagree sometimes! Life is much more interesting that way.

10. The pink card! Whenever you purchase a new book from us, you get that little punch on your frequent buyer card that counts toward a free book after you purchase twelve.

This bookstore is a partnership. We hope that you will continue to join us in this dance. And so,

Here are ten things that you can do:

1. If you read e-books, get as many of them as you can from us.

2. Know any former customers of stores that have closed? Send them our way!

3. Remember that a locally owned business is a valuable asset to a thriving community.  Think locally, and shop locally whenever you can.

4. When you can, pay for your purchases with cash or check, or use a debit card rather than a credit card.  Bank fees are an increasingly large part of every retailer’s overhead.

5. Bring your own bag.

6. Spread the word!  Forward our blog to your friends who read. If you have media connections, talk us up. Retweeting is a wonderful thing. And we love our Facebook friends!

7. Buy Broadway Books gift certificates for friends/family who haven’t been here yet.  We promise they’ll have a new friend in the reading business. They also make great gifts for teachers and service providers.

8. Come to an event at Broadway Books. Where else can you get such an entertaining evening for free?

9. Encourage your book club, your children’s schools, and any other group that reads to embrace your local bookstore. If your group or school can join together to purchase ten copies of one title in a single transaction, we’ll give you a 10% discount. Twenty copies earns 20%. Even one copy earns a pink card punch.

10. Talk to us! Your opinion matters. We hope to embrace as many of yours as possible. Nobody can respond as quickly as we can to an actual customer whose opinions and preferences are important to us.

Just like you, we are in this for the long haul. For nearly twenty years, we’ve been an active part of this community. With your support, we plan to be here for many years to come. We participate in the Northeast Broadway Business Association, which is committed to keeping our community vibrant and diverse, with lots of great locally owned shops, restaurants, and other services. We firmly believe that small neighborhood stores contribute to the quality of life in these transitional times.  We hope that you agree.

Roberta Dyer and Sally McPherson
Broadway Books, 1714 NE Broadway, Portland OR 97232
(503) 284-1726,,