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Original post made
on Nov 7, 2007
I miss Printers Inc. a lot. It had a great selection, and was a wonderful place to go shopping on my lunch hour, or at dinner in Mountain View. I've been to Books Inc. (both the replacement for the Mountain View store and the Stanford Mall store), and unfortunately it just does not have anywhere as good a selection as Printer's Inc. used to. Keplers is still wonderful, but more out of my way, unfortunately.
I like Borders personally - great selection, huge inventory, always hopping. Too bad there isn't a Barnes & Noble around, they are awesome. Indies are fine, too, but personally I have not seen the attraction - they are mostly smaller and not as nice a place to shop.
It's unfortunate that independent booksellers have begun to disappear.
That said, it's important to know the other side of the story.
When Amazon was in its nascent stages, the ABA (American Bookseller's Assn.) started Booksense.com, which was touted as a way for independents to compete with Amazon. It never materialized as a serious threat because the independents would not organize.
About Printer's Ink: when it's accountant bought the store, he used a weirdly peculiar way to pay off the buyback debt. It worked something like this: when a book sold off the shelves, it was not replaced in stock. Rather, the profits from the book were used to pay off the debt. Within months of the takeover, one would walk into PI and see one empty or near-empty shelf after another, with books facing forward, instead of spine-to-spine - to fill shelf space. Stock didn't rotate. I've never seen anything like it. Within a few more months, PI became devoid of shoppers who were weary of seeing the same old (diminishing) supply of books. The new owner simply did not understand the book business, or that the main trigger to consumer buying behavior in a bookstore is the *large availability* of stock for customers to browse.
PI was an anchor for California Ave., along with the now-defunct movie theatre up the street (currently a rug shop that is on the verge of closing its doors).
California Ave. has thus evolved to a restaurant and beauty shop haven. Hopefully, more enlightened developers and landlords (and maybe our policy makers) will do something to encourage more retail variety.
One last thing about PI. We need to find a way to work with landlords in Palo Alto, in a way that is non-threatening, but that creates a conversation that helps landlords understand the value of keeping viable businesses alive, and finding innovative ways to keep retail churn to a minimum...this profits everyone, including the landlords.
Pi could still be here if the landlord hadn't succumbed to the Rite-Aid offer, but had chosen to work with PI so that everyone could win.
I use Booksense.com all the time. You can get there from keplers.com by clicking on the online ordering link. Works like a charm, and books arrive promptly.
Would that I still lived near Palo Alto, a visit to Keplers was a joy. At least I can still help keep them in business by using their booksense link.
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