"Bookstores are not dead." That was the exuberant tweet on December 24th from Strand Book Store, the iconic New York City institution, as it wrapped up a record holiday selling period.
"Yesterday we had our best sales day in the history of 86 years at the store," the tweet read. "So thankful for all of you."
Strand's announcement followed other positive news for independent book stores and the printed books category overall.
In November, the Association of American Publishers, which collects monthly data from about 1,200 publishers, reported that e-book sales had been flat or in decline for most of 2013, a sign to some that the novelty of e-books may be wearing off for American consumers.
"I don't know if it's a saturation point with digital," Len Vlahos, the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, told the New York Times in an article that ran in mid-December. "But all the data we see suggests that we've hit a state of equilibrium. The trend lines have flattened out. Three years ago, it was a nascent market, but now it looks like a maturing market."
While pointing out that independents were seeing "a nice renaissance," Jennifer Enderlin, the publisher of St. Martin's Press Paperbacks and Griffin, likewise told the Times that e-book sales were finding their level, and would soon "start affecting print books in a good way."
E-books, which surpassed sales of physical books in 2012, have been long touted for their convenience and their lower cost.
In an interview with The Atlantic in early December, Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, pointed to a few other reasons why independent book sellers have bounced back over the last three years. They include:
Strand's performance came despite the absence of a strong lineup of blockbuster titles this holiday season, such as "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "Hunger Games" in 2012. Ironically, some saw this paucity helping independents compete against Amazon, known for its sharp pricing on best-sellers.
Are you more or less optimistic about the prospects of independent book shops today versus two years ago?