Business/Nonprofits / Mount Pleasant

CMU Bookstore, SBX say they can compete with Amazon in future

Bookstores in Mount Pleasant have changed their game to compete with the changing economy of E-readers and tablets.

A Nov. 4 New York Times article said bookstores like Barnes & Noble are struggling to remain relevant in the shadow of Amazon, who is now entering the publishing business, causing much distress in the bookstore world.

“At a certain point you have to decide how far you want to nail your own coffin shut,” Books Inc. owner Michael Tucker told The Times. “Amazon wants to completely control the entire book trade. You’re crazy if you want to play that game with them.”

Additionally, major publishers such as Penguin and Random House have announced their merger to create a mega-publishing powerhouse aiming to compete with online retailers.

Local bookstores, however, don’t seem to be feeling the heat. Many are taking measures to compete with online retailers.

Barry Waters, director of the Central Michigan University Bookstore, said they have taken measures to compete with Amazon and other online competitors by releasing a “compare” feature on their website.

“The feature shows our price to rent and buy as well as six or seven other online companies, including Amazon,” Waters said. “Our site allows our customers to purchase from the other online companies through our website.  I am excited to say that we had a 90 percent win rate on all the orders placed on our website.”

In some cases, the online market has proved to be an asset for small retailers.

“The internet has created challenges, but also opportunities. We’re now selling books online, and our customers span all 50 states,” said John Belco, manager at the Student Book Exchange, 209 E. Bellows St. “And we’re also able to purchase books online at lower prices, so we can offer more competitive rates to our customers.”

Other book retailers in the city have taken another approach to selling books, particularly new releases.

“All the new books I carry, I discount them all by at least 25 percent,” said Richard Templeman, owner of the Book Garden, 114 S. Main St.

Templeman said the Book Garden conducts special orders at a discounted price, which, in his mind, is to compete with online retailers.

However, with online mega-retailers such as Amazon overshadowing many chain and independent bookstores, some fear that the small business feel is falling by the wayside.

Waters is confident in the future of independent bookstores, especially those on college campuses.

“Of course bookstores will be relevant, even out to 25 years. College bookstores may look different, sell different products and be called ‘college stores’ instead of bookstores.  If properly run and adaptable to change, there will be college stores in 25 years.”

Templeman is a little more pessimistic, but hopeful.

“I hope (bookstores will still be relevant),” he said. “Used books are always cheap, and you can buy used books online — but I’ve had some experience with that, and it can be scary because you don’t have the book in your hand to look at. And it’s especially hard if it’s something you didn’t know you were looking for; it’s more difficult to browse.”

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