Bookstores adjust to poor economy

Ted Hamilton

Business shifts for local book shops as readers pinch pennies

Jen Moore, part-time school health education major, browses books at Logos Bookstore yesterday afternoon. Moore likes that the bookstore is on her way home and has stopped three times, she said. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

For locally owned bookstores, the opening line of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” seems to sum up the recession: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Some of the independent shops are doing better business than the same time last year, while others – much like the national chains – are feeling the bite of the recession.

Ann Kardos, co-owner of the Logos Bookstore on West Main Street, said her store first started seeing a slump in sales when gas prices went up last spring. With the economic downturn, the slump has continued as consumers spend less.

“I certainly don’t blame anyone for being nervous,” Kardos said.

To offset the economy, Logos staff made some changes in how they operate, like cutting hours so none of the employees had to be let go.

Another change Kardos said she has seen since the beginning of the recession is more people buying used books as opposed to brand new. The fact that consumers seem to be buying more used goods, including books, have helped some businesses.

According to a recent article in Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine geared toward book sellers, Barnes and Noble, Borders Group and Books-A-Million – three of the largest national chains in the United States – sold fewer books in 2008 than the year before.

Some independently owned bookstores have been doing a little bit better than the national chains, however.

Last Exit Books, located on East Main Street in downtown Kent, is one such store. The small bookstore sells both used and discounted books.

Jason Merlene, owner of the store, said he has sold more books from January to March than he has in that same period of any other year.

“It’s probably helped us more than hurt us,” he said.

The store has been selling more of its $1 books; however, he said he has noticed a decrease in the amount of higher priced books he has sold.

While Logos Bookstore is primarily a Christian bookstore, Kardos said she has been selling more books about financial planning.

“I’m an optimist,” she said. “I think things will pick back up when the economy starts getting better.”

Contact public affairs reporter Ted Hamilton at [email protected].